On Your Health

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Using Baby Boxes for Safe Sleep

Baby boxes are showing up around the world, and many are wondering what they are and how a simple box can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To answer some of these questions, we interviewed Audrey Goodwin, M.D., who is a board certified internal medicine and pediatrics physician at INTEGRIS. She gave us the scoop on baby boxes and covered the importance of safe sleep.

The history of baby boxes

Baby boxes were inspired by an 80-year-old Finnish tradition. “The government in Finland provides baby boxes to all expecting mothers, and the bottom of the box has a little mattress and sheet,” Dr. Goodwin says. “This provides a safe sleep space for babies and dramatically decreases SIDS rates.”

From this simple method, the government decreased SIDS rates from 1 in 10 children to now having one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates at 2.50 per 1,000 live births. News of this tradition has spread to the U.S. and started a global initiative to educate expectant parents on safe sleeping habits for babies.

What’s included in a baby box?

  • A box made of durable cardboard
  • A mattress that’s made of a firm, non-toxic padding with a fitted cotton sheet
  • Essential baby products like diapers and wipes
  • Educational booklets and sleep safety reminder sheets

With all the necessities in one place, families can provide exactly what is needed for a sleeping baby. “Cribs can be really expensive,” Dr. Goodwin says. “The baby box gives families affordable and safe options. If they have a safe, free place for their babies to sleep, they’ll be better off.”

Baby boxes for education

Baby box programs educate parents about safe sleeping habits. “Showing parents the baby box gets them engaged in a better way than simple information overload,” Dr.  Goodwin says.  “They can physically see how it works and provides a safe option for their child.”

A baby box distributor, The Baby Box Co., partners with hospitals, government agencies and other organizations to distribute free baby boxes to growing families. The Baby Box Co. says on their website that the box alone doesn’t protect against SIDS — parents still need to practice safe sleep habits. The company offers The Baby Box University as a source of videos, articles and ebooks to help teach parents about safe sleep.

As with many new trends or ideas, it has taken awhile for baby boxes to reach critical mass. According to a recent USA Today article, some medical experts hesitate to recommend baby boxes because research is still ongoing.

Safe sleep guidelines

What are standard safe sleep guidelines? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, a safe sleep environment includes:

  • Placing the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Avoiding the use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Preventing the baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

“The AAP recently updated safe sleep guidelines and recommends newborns sleep in the same room — but not same bed — as their parents for the first six months to a year,” Dr. Goodwin says. “However, every baby is different and when your baby isn’t sleeping, it’s hard. Every family must decide what works for them.”

Information about SIDS is readily available in an effort to decrease infant mortality rates in the U.S. If you’re expecting, speak with your doctor about safe sleep habits and he or she can help guide you and provide helpful resources.

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