children's sleep health parenting

In Praise of the Baby Box

January 28, 2017

Nothing gets me more excited than a terrific public health initiative!

New Jersey has become the first state to offer expectant parents free baby boxes.(Pennsylvanians routinely poke fun at the State of New Jersey but this is something to emulate)

What is a baby box? It is based on a Finnish Public Health initiative designed to lower infant mortality by providing a free box to expectant mothers full of gender neutral baby supplies. Most importantly, the box can be used as a crib for the baby’s first few months of life, providing a safe sleep environment.

Originally conceived as an initiative in 1930’s era Finland, Mothers had to be seen in a doctor’s office before their 4th month of pregnancy to get the box and its contents for free. This ensured that the women who wanted the box got appropriate prenatal care.Today, it is an important part of Finnish culture and has helped Finland achieve the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. You can read all about the Finnish initiative here.

This is what the expectant parents receive in New Jersey: The-Every-Mother-Counts-Box

To obtain the box free of charge, parents must register for free at as New Jersey residents and include valid contact information and mailing address. They will watch a program lasting 10 to 15 minutes and take a short quiz to get a certificate of completion. Then, they can choose to collect their box from the closest distribution partner or have it shipped to their address.

Back when I was an Army Social Worker and stationed at Fort Bragg, we had a terrible series of infant deaths, many of them attributed to SIDS. What was not really released to the public was that some of those deaths were attributed to unsafe sleep environments. At the time, Kurk (my husband) was an Army Public Health Nurse (prior to his career as an ER nurse) and we were on the same fatality review committee designed to investigate this horrific trend. We had learned of the Finnish baby box program and thought it would be a great solution for our families, especially our younger parents for whom money was frequently an issue. However, funding such a campaign was something we could never figure out and sadly, we PCSed (Army moved us) before we could make any headway or develop it as a program. I still think it would be useful and would still champion it as a social work/public health plan.(Army Community Services, maybe?)

If you are as excited like I am by this amazing initiative and would like to lobby for it in your area, you can find the products at baby box collections. Not only would it be useful to state or local governments but it would be amazing for missionary distribution domestically or abroad, adaptation by the Red Cross/humanitarian aid groups or by local hospitals.

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