A Baby in This Box Sleeps Safely

HYANNIS – They come in adorable prints like classy owls, happy hedgehogs or lovable lions, but the infant beds created by The Baby Box Company are meant to be more than simply charming. They are designed to save lives by providing a safe, clutter-free place for newborns to sleep.

Now all parents of babies born on Cape Cod can get a baby box of their own, free of charge. The initiative started after Robin Hayward, director of A Baby Center in Hyannis read an article about how baby boxes were being credited for giving Finland the lowest rate of infant mortality in the world.

“I’m always searching for ways to do things that help support families, especially in health, education and resources,” she said. “This does all three.”

Since 1949, all parents in Finland have been offered a choice between a baby box for safe newborn sleeping or a check for 140 euros. Most parents choose the box. Baby boxes along with parent education are considered to be the reason that Finland has such a low rate of infant mortality, at 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control.

The same report showed infant mortality in the Unites States is 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, a rate that is two and a half times higher than Finland’s. This is despite the fact that the 1994 introduction of the Back-to-Sleep campaign decreased the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by 50 percent, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

100 Boxes A Month

When Hayward contacted Michelle Vick, co-founder of A Baby Box Company, she learned that they would give her up to 100 baby boxes a month for free as part of the philanthropic wing of their company. Hayward then contacted Rosanna Burke, supervisor and educator of women and children’s services at Cape Cod Hospital, and Michele Kaiser, director of maternity at Falmouth Hospital to see if Cape Cod Healthcare was interested in becoming partners.

They were.

“When Robin from A Baby Center reached out to us, it seemed like a great idea, especially for people who did not have a bassinette already,” Burke said. “It discourages co-sleeping, which can cause suffocation and it decreases the risk factors for SIDS, so it’s a great opportunity for everyone.”

The boxes themselves are not magic cure-alls. They consist of a sturdy box, covered with a cute printed material. Inside the box there is a snug-fitting mattress, a waterproof mattress cover, and a sheet. The boxes come with covers to keep pets out, but the covers should never be used when the baby is inside the box. Babies can sleep in the box until they are four to six months of age, depending on how quickly they grow.

The first video was made by Baby Box University. It explains how to use the box safely. After that, Baby Box University offers healthcare providers participating in the program the opportunity to create their own syllabus using local doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and childbirth instructors.

Physicians from Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals created 33 individual videos on topics like preparing for childbirth, ways to prevent SIDS, breast-feeding, post-partum depression and how to console a crying baby among other things.

For All Moms

Even experienced mothers can benefit from the education, Kaiser said, because there is always new research showing better ways to keep babies safe. For example, parents used to be encouraged to prop their newborns using a flat mat with side bolsters to keep a baby in position on its back or side. That advice is no longer given because the bolsters were found to be a suffocation risk.

Current recommendations are that babies sleep on their back on a firm crib mattress with no pillows, toys, bumpers or blankets. A sleep sack is recommended to keep them warm.

Expectant mothers can log onto Baby Box University on their iPhones to take the courses before their baby is born. Cape Cod Hospital, Falmouth Hospital and A Baby Center all have tablets available for mothers who may not have an iPhone. Once the mother listens to about five short videos, she gets a certificate. She can then go to A Baby Center to pick up her baby box.

“This is an opportunity for people to get resources they need, free of charge,” Kaiser said. “It’s evidence-based, necessary information, which is exactly what we strive to give our patients. It helps enhance the education we provide. It’s a lot of information in a short period of time, so this is a great opportunity for reinforcement.”

The program launched on April 10, and 22 mothers picked up their boxes on that day. Over the next few weeks, 25 more boxes were distributed to pregnant women or new mothers. More boxes are already on order.

“As a provider of programs and services, this was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken,” Hayward said. “Kudos to the staff at both hospitals. They really were just so giving of their time and their devotion to pregnancy and infant health and mortality.”

By LAURIE HIGGINS, Cape Cod Health News

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