Put your newborn in a sturdy, lidless cardboard box to sleep? Believe it or not, it’s been going on in Finland for some time and is slowly starting in the United States in states like New Jersey and Ohio where hospitals are sending infants and parents home with a box for the baby to sleep in. The idea behind the box is safe sleeping.
Sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) make up the majority of infant deaths in the United States. It’s a broad category that includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation and strangulation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were about 3,700 sudden unexpected infant deaths in the United States in 2015. SUID usually strikes infants less than 1 year old. Like SIDS, the reasons are usually unexplained and the ways to prevent it are uncertain. There is some good news, however. You may be able to avoid SUID and SIDS by exercising more control over how your infant sleeps.
Since the 1990s, healthcare professionals have been outlining new and better guidelines for how parents should put infants to sleep. Crib bumpers, stuffed animals, extra blankets, loose-fitting clothing and even putting infants to sleep on their stomachs are all things physicians recommend against because of the risk of suffocation and strangulation, which makes up 25 percent of all SUID cases, according to the CDC. Eliminating these and keeping infants in a smaller, more contained area, help to reduce the risk of SUID.
Put Your Baby in a Box
In use in Finland since the 1930s, baby boxes used as cribs have been tied to a direct decline in SUIDS. The practice, lauded for its innovation and good results, is starting to spread to the United States. In fact, some U.S. companies are already working with hospitals to provide “baby boxes,” which come with a mattress, a fitted sheet, a onesie and diapers, to new parents.
These boxes are wonderful options for new parents and their babies. The minimalist design prevents your baby from moving too much, which can cause bedding and other things to strangle or suffocate them. They’re also small enough to conveniently fit next to the parent’s bed – which means you can comfort your little one without having to get up. Many parents keep the boxes on the floor at their bedside for the first six months of their infant’s life.
Before the boxes were introduced in Finland, about 10 percent of all children died within their first year of life. Now, that number is 0.3 percent.
Here are the recommendations for putting your infant to sleep:
- Place babies on their back – to help you remember, think of “back to sleep.”
- Keep blankets, bumpers and stuffed animals out of the bed.
- For the first six months, have your child’s crib or bassinet (or box) in the same room as you.
- Use a firm mattress.
- Never bring your infant into your bed to sleep.
While I’m not aware of any hospitals in Houston currently participating in the baby box program, there are companies that will ship boxes to expecting parents. Usually, interested moms and dads just have to log on to a website, watch a few safety videos, take a quiz and send in an address to have the boxes shipped to if there isn’t a distribution center near you.
I recommend one more step, and that is before using a sleep box, take it with you to your newborn’s next checkup and have your doctor check that it’s sturdy and safe for use. Your pediatrician can also give you additional guidance and safe sleeping tips to help protect your precious baby.