NORTH CONWAY, NH – Memorial Hospital Birthing Center along with A New Life prenatal clinic is unveiling an extension to their safe sleep education program with the introduction of the baby box. Inspired by the maternity packages that the Finnish government has been sending out to all expectant mothers for 75 years, the baby box provides a safe sleep environment for babies up to eight months of age. It also offers parents a starter kit for their new baby, and contains infant care items such as clothes, safe sleep swaddle, and other newborn necessities.
It is believed that baby boxes have helped Finland achieve one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. Currently, the United States infant mortality rate is 5.6 out of 1,000 live births per year based on 2014 data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics about 3,500 babies in the United States die every year related to unsafe sleep environments. Entrapment, strangulation, and suffocation, along with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are linked causes.
The first baby box, which is manufactured by the Baby Box Co. was given out in this past October. October is national SIDS, infant and pregnancy loss awareness month. The box was given out at Memorial Hospital's A New Life prenatal clinic by Stacey Clifford, RN CLC. Each baby box includes a custom mattress that can be used as a bassinet. It has a firm surface and the size of the box is specifically designed to prevent infants from rolling over onto their stomachs and becoming entrapped. The box has handles on the side for travel which also acts as air flow, and is meant to be used uncovered on a flat surface such as a floor.
Clifford, who has been a staff nurse at the Birthing Center for over five years, has education as a lactation counselor and champions the safe sleep education. Clifford learned about the Finland maternity package years ago, and waited for the day this would be available to parents in the United States.
Clifford says, "Here at Memorial we implement national safe sleep recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics."
The current AAP recommendations are:
Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night.
Use a firm sleep surface such as crib, bassinet, portable crib that meets standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Room share—keep baby's sleep area in the same room where you sleep for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year.
Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort, then return to a safe sleep space on back.
Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies.
Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby's sleep area.
It is fine to swaddle your baby as long as baby is always on its back. Swaddling should be discontinued when he or she is trying to roll over.
Try giving a pacifier at nap time and bedtime, if breastfeeding is well established.
"These baby boxes are saving infant lives all over the world. Currently they are being used in third world countries, and many governments in Europe, are seeing the value of the baby box and implementing them into government practice by making them available to all expectant mothers." Clifford goes on to say, "Here in the United States, baby boxes are available at wholesale cost for as little as eighteen dollars. Unexpected infant loss is happening every year, right here, in the Mount Washington Valley, and we have the ability to do something about it."
Every box comes with a subscription to Baby Box University, an online education program developed to help new parents learn about pregnancy and parenting. It focuses on maternal health and early child development, including education about safe sleep.
"My goal is that a baby box will be sent home to families that express or present a need to provide a safe environment for their babies to sleep in. Parents will be sent home with a baby box after written and verbal education by trained staff, and they must demonstrate correct safe sleep practice." Clifford continues, "Here at Memorial Hospital we are introducing a program to the community that reaches out to our youngest and most vulnerable members. Every baby deserves a safe start."
The initial purchase of the baby boxes were graciously donated by the Memorial Hospital Volunteers and through grants for the New Life prenatal clinic.
"We will continue to need funds to support this program throughout the year, and to be able to serve every baby born at Memorial," states Clifford, "we welcome community members to donate towards baby boxes whether monetarily or by volunteering."
Clifford says her long term goal is to see baby boxes available to every parent in New Hampshire. Currently New Hampshire is only the second state in the US to offer the baby box through the healthcare setting, second only to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA who rolled out their baby box campaign this past May, supplying 3,000 baby boxes to every new mother.
To learn more about the baby box and safe sleep and recommended practices, please visit these available resources: