As the United States looks to improve infant and maternal mortality rates, states are looking to other countries for strategies to help babies and mothers.
Finnish parents have long been participants to ‘baby boxes’ that are given to new mothers when they are pregnant. The boxes include basic staples for a new baby, and are able to be used as bassinets that encourage safe sleeping practices like laying baby down on her back on a firm surface.
The idea is such a trendy one, many other countries, including the United States, are catching on, looking to see if the practice will help increase better outcomes for mothers and babies. The United States has alarming maternal and infant mortality rates, and Virginia just became the sixth state in the U.S. to offer a baby box initiative similar to the one that Finnish parents have.
Interestingly, though Finnish feedback and statistics suggest high success rates with their boxes, the American Academy of Pediatrics has yet to put its seal of endorsement on the baby boxes, saying there has not been enough study done to strongly support the efficacy of the program.
Dr. C.W. Gowen is with the pediatrics department of the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School. He said that the school and hospital are part of a study that will be used to then decide if the baby box program is something they want to advocate with their parents on a wide scale level. Concerns about structural damage to the boxes as well as baby safety when they become more mobile put many doctors on caution, and two safe sleep advocacy groups in Virginia are waiting to hear more about the success and safety of the program.
Carl Ayers is the Virginia Department of Social Services Director of Family Services, and an advocate of the program, which is purposed to teach parents about safe sleep practices for babies. He said there have been no issues of any harm or damage that has happened to children who were recipients of the boxes made by the Baby Box Company. He says the boxes are appropriate for infants up to about five-months-old and provide a safe place for baby to sleep no matter what a parent can afford.
The initiative is not just giving boxes away. Though they anticipate giving approximately 103,000 boxes to moms in the next year, they will also use the initiative as a platform for better education in-person and through video and social media access.
Related: The Finnish Baby Box
In order to receive the box, parents have to go through a video-based course about safe sleep that they find on the Baby Box Co. site, similarly to how New Jersey (the first state to launch a baby box initiative), Alabama, Ohio, Texas and Colorado do.
As approximately 3,500 babies die annually in the U.S. because of sleep-related issues, it’s obvious that more education and better practice implementation needs to happen. Officials with the state say that the tools definitely help, but parents need to remember these boxes are not silver bullets that will always keep a child fully safe.
Still, Virginia’s Secretary of Health Bill Hazel says that when you take Finland’s infant death rate decreases into account, particularly compared to the significantly higher levels that the United States have, you can deduce that something they are doing is working, and worth implementing for Virginia’s babies as well.
Photo: Baby Box Co.