Free baby boxes welcomed in fight against sleep-related deaths

Infant mortality in Alabama, for instance, is above the national average.

ByABC News
March 27, 2017, 6:28 PM

— -- Alabama will give families of all newborns in the state free baby boxes in which to slumber if they take a quiz on sleep safety. The initiative, to start Wednesday, follows New Jersey and Ohio's campaigns for infant sleep safety with the Baby Box Co.

For Alabama, however, the goal is for the state to combat its higher than usual infant mortality rate, where 8.3 infants die every year out of 1,000 births, compared with the national average of 5.8 infant deaths to 1,000 births, according to officials.

"Alabama is sort of in a crisis situation," Jennifer Clary, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Baby Box Co., told ABC News while comparing the state's infant mortality rate to the other two states that have already started using the company’s resources.

About 3,500 infants die every year in the United States from sleep-related infant deaths, like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“If every mother in the state of Alabama used the baby box, it could cut the infant immortality rate by 22 percent,” Suzanne Booth, executive assistant for the Alabama Rural Development Office, told ABC News.

The top three causes of infant deaths in Alabama are malformations at birth, disorders from short pregnancies like low birth weights in premature babies and SIDS, according to Alabama Department of Public Health.

Alabama has set up the resources where parents can watch online videos about SIDS and safe sleep for their newborns through Baby Box University, and take a quiz to qualify for the free box. The families can pick up the boxes at a distribution center or have them mailed to their home address.

PHOTO: The Baby Box Company's packages include a variety of supplies and products to equip new parents.
Caption: The Baby Box Company's packages include a variety of supplies and products to equip new parents.

The baby box is portable, secure and comes with a firm foam mattress and tight-fitting sheet for safe sleeping. The boxes, which retail for about $70 to $225, also include breast-feeding accessories, onesie, diapers and wipes.

“It feels to me sometimes that I’m doing more for these families by giving them the education, and giving them the box, than by actually being their midwife during labor,” Celina Cunanan, director of the division of nurse-midwifery for University Hospitals/Case Medical Center in Cleveland, told ABC News.

Infant mortality rates among black infants were also three times higher than white infants in Alabama, even though there are nearly double the number of white infant births in 2015, according to the state.

Here are some tips the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to create a safe sleep environment for an infant:

  • Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  • Avoid baby's exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.