Since the 1930s, the nation of Finland has given new parents special “baby boxes” that contain newborn essentials and can serve as infant beds. Now, new parents in New Jersey have access to the same resource, and experts believe it will help prevent infant deaths just like it has in the Nordic country.
The Baby Box Company partnered with New Jersey’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board (CFNFRB) to give parents durable cardboard boxes filled with diapers, clothes, baby wipes, breast pads and more. The box also contains a mattress that allows it to serve as the baby’s first bed.
Starting Thursday, new and expectant parents can register online at “Baby Box University” to receive their free box. The process requires that recipients complete the New Jersey “syllabus,” a series of videos from health professionals that educate parents on newborn care. Video topics include safe sleep, local family services, breastfeeding and more.
Once parents have finished the 10 to 15-minute educational program and passed a short quiz on the material, they are officially eligible to receive the free baby box. They can choose to pick up the box at a local distribution site or have it shipped to their home.
“Our goal is to provide universal access to both education and physical resources for New Jersey parents,” Baby Box Company CEO and co-founder Jennifer Clary told The Huffington Post. “These two components go hand in hand.”
The baby box is valued at approximately $150. The Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board received a grant from the Center for Disease Control to help New Jersey implement the new box program. The Baby Box Company will supplement the grant with money from its financial partners and charitable donations.
New Jersey is the first state to offer a universal baby box program. The company expects to distribute about 105,000 boxes to families statewide in 2017.
While the boxes are themselves a great resource, program organizers say the value of the Baby Box University curriculum cannot be overstated. A 2016 CFNFRB report found that an estimated 93 percent of the infant fatalities related to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) that the board reviewed were related to sleep and sleep environments. Thus, raising awareness around infant sleep safety is a key part of the program’s mission.
“The important thing to remember about the baby box is the real prevention is the education that comes with the box,” CFNFRB chair, Dr. Kathryn McCans, told HuffPost. “In taking the online syllabus, we hope parents will learn the importance of safe sleep environments, thus reducing the number of fatalities related to unsafe sleep environments.”
Hospitals and OB-GYNs across New Jersey are on board with the new initiative, Clary said, noting that some medical centers, like Cooper University Hospital, have pledged to distribute baby boxes on site.
Although New Jersey is the first state to implement a universal baby box program, the Baby Box Company is currently developing more statewide programs that will be announced in the near future. Additionally, other places in the U.S. have offered smaller scale box distributions, like Temple University Hospital’s program.
“Baby boxes will actually be available nationally in Canada by the end of March, we have robust Baby Box University programs at many NHS trusts in the U.K., and we have active universal programs in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) and San Francisco,” said Clary.
The CEO encouraged those who want to support more programs like these to email the company and “get involved in the baby box movement!”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misclassified Finland as a Scandinavian country.