New Jersey is the first state in the US to promote a public health effort to lower the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by providing all new parents in the state with baby boxes. The parents are given a box with baby clothes and other items after completing an online educational course and a quiz. The package contains a firm mattress and fitted sheet to be used as the baby’s first bed.
The Baby’s Sleeping Position is Crucial During the First Months
Research from countries such as New Zealand, Sweden and the US have all shown a significant decline in SIDS deaths. Public campaigns urging parents to place babies on their backs at nap time and at night have been successful to a degree.
Finland originated the baby box idea in the 1930’s, when the government decided to give all expectant mothers a gift of a box and baby clothes, a sleeping bag, diapers, a mattress for the box, and bedding.
The mother had to visit a physician prior to the fourth month of pregnancy for care. The original purpose was to have the baby sleep in his or her own bed, and to encourage breastfeeding.
According to the World Health Organization(WHO), Finland had an infant death rate of 65 deaths per thousand in 1938, a high number. But by 2013, the number dropped to 1.3 deaths per thousand, making the infant death rate in Finland one of the world’s lowest.
In the US, the rate is 6.5 deaths per 1000, or 23rd among the industrialized countries. The “Back to Sleep” public awareness campaign began in 1994, and infant deaths fell, but the rate leveled off in the last decade, due to resistance from parents, child care providers, some health care providers, and others.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
“the single most effective action that parents or caregivers can take to lower a baby’s risk of SIDS is to place the baby on his or her back for naps and at night.”
The causes of SIDS have been studied extensively. Some physical factors noted by the Mayo Clinic are:
- Brain abnormalities – parts of the brain may not have matured enough, and cause problems with breathing and arousal
- Low birth weight.
- Respiratory infections.
- Sleeping prone or on side – both make breathing more difficult than when supine.
- Soft Surfaces – infants may have trouble breathing when on soft surfaces, such as pillows, soft blankets or soft mattresses.
- Sleeping with parents increases risk, especially if infant is sleeping on a soft surface.
Baby Boxes in New Jersey
New Jersey is the first state to provide all expectant mothers a baby box. The program is similar to Finland’s in that the mother has to complete a short quiz following a short educational video. Provided is information on safe sleep, breastfeeding, local family services, and more. All expectant mothers who want to receive a baby box must register online.
In 2014, 57 New Jersey infants died in their sleep. According to experts, almost all of these deaths were preventable. Judy Postmus of the Board of Child Fatality Review Board declared:
“Of those, roughly 80 to 85 percent of them were because of unsafe sleeping conditions and so the intent is by having a safe box, that it gives them a chance to put a baby in a safe environment to sleep and hopefully decrease the number of those unexplained deaths.”
New Jersey will provide 105,000 boxes in 2017, starting in the southern part of the state. It is funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). The box may be picked up at participating hospitals and physicians offices after passing the quiz.
In the Future
The baby box movement is becoming more widespread throughout the world. It is being considered in other states, and is spreading in Canada, England, and Australia.
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