What Parents Need to Know About Using Baby Boxes

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Last week we told you about New Jersey becoming the first state to offer Finnish baby boxes to new and expectant parents. The cardboard boxes have long been used by parents in Finland, which has the lowest infant mortality rate of any country in the world (the U.S. ranks 26th on that list).

Following New Jersey's move, nonprofit organization CJ First Candle, which is devoted to eliminating Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), said anything that promotes safe infant sleep is good. But the group is also cautioning parents that certain guidelines should be followed in order to make baby boxes a truly safe sleeping environment for babies. First and foremost, the baby box should contain only a firm mattress with fitted sheet, and it should be absent of any other padding, bedding or stuffed animals.

In addition, CJ First Candle raises concerns that the side of the box presents a potential suffocation hazard, and that where a box is placed carries with it certain dangers. For instance, if the box is placed on the floor, an adult could trip over the box and fall on top of the baby, or a pet could reach in. If placed on a table, dresser, or couch, the box could tip over and injure the baby.

It's worth noting that in New Jersey, the boxes are being supplied by a company called The Baby Box Company, which provides education materials for parents about safe sleep. To obtain a box, parents must first watch a short informational program and fill out a survey.

Still, according to new comments from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on SIDS, even when parents use the boxes correctly, "There really is no evidence for these boxes." The AAP further notes that although Finland has seen a drop in its infant mortality rates, so have "all industrialized countries."

According to the AAP, Finland has never studied the baby box specifically, so there's no way to know for sure if the boxes are responsible for the country's low infant mortality rate.

Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., division head of general pediatrics at University of Virginia School of Medicine and a member of the AAP Task Force on SIDS, told the differences between the U.S. and Finland are an "important context within which to consider the role of the baby box." Namely, Finland offers a broad system of social support and benefits for its people, like maternity leave and healthcare. So we aren't exactly comparing apples to apples.

In the end, the AAP isn't ready to say anything more specific about the safety of baby boxes.

But there is no disputing that Finland does have a far lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. With that in mind, if you do decide to use a baby box, it's imperative to follow these safety tips, provided by baby box company Finnbinn:

  • Keep it firm. It's very important that the surface a baby sleeps on is firm and not overly plush, which could lead to suffocation (Finnbins and Baby Boxes include a padded insert).
  • Bring baby into the bedroom (but not the bed!). Baby boxes should be placed next to the parents' bed on the floor, keeping the baby in the same room as parents.
  • Out with the bumpers. Do not place a bumper or extra padding of any kind inside your baby box.
  • Read up. Educate yourself about safe sleeping guidelines (both Finnbinns and Baby Boxes come with educational materials for parents on this topic).

Also, be sure to check out the AAP's safe sleep guidelines.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.

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