Baby Boxes: Coming Soon to a Nursery Near You?
By Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, Board Certified Pediatrician
Baby boxes — sturdy cardboard boxes that are designed as a sleep environment for newborns — have been around for decades, first appearing in Finland as part of a campaign to decrease infant mortality.
Now they’re beginning to show up in the United States.
Supporters of baby boxes say these adorable sleep environments remind families to place newborns in their own sleep space instead of sharing a bed in order to decrease the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Today, Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, although there are multiple reasons for this.
A typical baby box is just over two feet long and is intended for newborns and infants for the first few months of their lives. They include a thin, firm mattress and often come with a good amount of baby swag, including diapers, wipes, clothes, and the like. They are intended as a sleep surface only.
Baby boxes are gaining traction in the United States as part of safe sleep programs. Mothers in Alabama, Ohio, and New Jersey can qualify for a baby box after completing an online sleep safety course. The idea is that for families who would not be able to afford a crib or bassinet, the baby box can be used as a sleep space, discouraging co-sleeping or the use of another unsafe sleep space such as an adult bed or couch.
At a certain point, an infant outgrows the baby box and then needs another safe environment.
Critics say baby boxes need to be used with caution, because there are no established studies proving their safety is equal to that of a crib. Baby boxes do not fall under specific safety guidelines, because they are not considered either a crib or bassinet. Proponents argue that for families without a crib, baby boxes are safer than bed sharing. Like cribs, baby boxes are to be used with the mattress only, and should be free of blankets, stuffed toys, and other objects that could cause suffocation.
If you live in the New Jersey, Ohio, or Alabama and would like to sign up for a free baby box, register online at www.babyboxuniversity.com.
American Academy of Pediatrics
- SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths.
Baby Box University.
South Jersey Perinatal Cooperative
- New Jersey Baby Box Initiative.
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