The Baby Box Company is partnering with the state and Cooper University Hospital to distribute durable, cardboard boxes — large enough to double as a bed. Co-founder and CEO Jennifer Clary got the idea after learning that Finland had one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, largely because their babies were sleeping in boxes.
“So every expecting mother in Finland has to visit a health care professional for parenting education and community supports before she gets her baby box. So they’ve tied it to essentially wrapping the mother with the tools that she needs to be successful. So they leave feeling empowered and they can use the baby box safely as it’s intended,” she said.
Caregivers sign up online at New Jersey’s Baby Box University. Once they complete a quick educational program, they get a box. Clary expects to hand out more than 100,000 this year. The use is linked to improved health outcomes for newborns and lower rates of SIDS — or sudden infant death syndrome. According to New Jersey’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board for 2014, roughly 93 percent of infant fatalities were associated with SIDS and linked to sleep or sleep environments.
Okay, but really, you want me to put my baby to sleep in a box? On the floor?
That’s the bottom line behind the baby box, a literal box with a foam mattress lining the bottom and a pretty painted design on the inside. Once you take out the Pampers diapers and wipes, baby clothing, nursing supplies and bags, you’re left with a cardboard bassinet. Only, unlike most bassinets, this one doesn’t have a stand. According to the Baby Box Company, you are to always keep the box on the floor or a “sturdy, wide surface like a coffee table.” Unless, of course, your newborn is anything like my son was; he kicked his way through the night and successfully rocked his bassinet within weeks of his birth. I’d hate to see what he’d do to a box on a coffee table.
Obviously this is a good idea in theory and apparently in practice. But, the lowering of the infant mortality rate in Finland had less to do with a baby sleeping in a box than it did with luring low-income mothers into doctors’ offices with free gifts. If mothers wanted a baby box they had to see a doctor by their fourth month of pregnancy. It’s also worth noting that the contents of the box have changed over time, flowing in accordance with national health and environmental initiatives. Finnish mothers no longer receive disposable diapers (bad for the environment), nor do the boxes contain bottles or pacifiers (to promote breastfeeding). They also ironically contain condoms. Finnish mothers are noted for being some of the happiest mothers in the world, which apparently means they don’t mind being told how to parent by their government.
The Baby Box Company also warns users of the boxes not to carry their baby in the box or place the lid on the box while the baby is inside. And while the box can handle a wipe-down, it can’t get soaked. For low-income mothers who can’t afford a bassinet or crib, the baby box is a great alternative to bed-sharing with a newborn. Just make sure you remember the baby is at your feet when you wake up.