Every year, about 3,500 babies in the U.S. die in sleep-related accidents, often related to blankets or toys blocking the oxygen flow. Now doctors say a new crib design made of cardboard may help lower infant mortality.
With cheering crowds in Camden, New Jersey, Dolores Petersen became one of the first people to pick up a free box for her baby. "I thought she'd scream, but she didn't. She liked it," Petersen said.
She admits that it felt a little strange putting her five week-old, Arabella, in a crib made of cardboard. But inside is a firm mattress, a fitted sheet, and the kind of clean, uncluttered environment that doctors recommend for safe sleep. "The box ain't nothing special, but it's somewhere for her to sleep where she won't get SIDS, or get hurt. Because you can have her in your bed and just roll over, and that's it," Petersen said.
'SIDS' is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a major reason why the United States is way behind other countries in infant mortality, ranking 26th in the most recent study. At the top of that list is Finland, a country that's been giving out baby boxes for nearly 80 years.
"I read the same article that millions of people did all around the world called, "Why do Finnish Babies Sleep in Boxes?" said Jennifer Clary, the co-founder of the Baby Box Company. She launched the business in Los Angeles in 2013. She sells the basic box online for about $70. "Not one parent receives one of our baby boxes without having received copious safe sleep education," she said.
With money from the CDC and corporate donors, more than a million mothers nationwide will have access to a baby box this year, Clary says. But New Jersey's effort is by far the most ambitious, providing every mother a box plus supplies worth about $150.
Kathryn McCanns is chair of the New Jersey Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, which runs the program. "We have to change everyone's behavior so that no child is left at risk," she said.
Thanks to her baby box, Delores Petersen is already resting easier. "When you stop and think about what it's really good for, we wanted a box," Petersen said
To get one, parents have to watch a short series of videos and take an online quiz. About 3,800 parents have already done so.
PO Box 4508