New Jersey is becoming the first state to officially partner with The Baby Box Company, a company that works to improve new parent education, encourage newborn health awareness and reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome.
The program will distribute baby boxes filled with diapers and other newborn necessities to all new parents in New Jersey who complete a free online parenting education course. The course curriculum includes information on breastfeeding, prenatal health and safe sleep practices.
The box itself also acts as a mattress that the baby can use as a bed, encouraging healthy sleeping environments. According to a report by the Child Fatality & Near Fatality Review Board, 93 percent of infant deaths associated with Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome were directly related to a child’s sleep and sleep environment.
Jennifer Clary, co-founder of The Baby Box Company, said she hopes the program encourages parents to make good choices.
Clary first learned of the “baby box” concept in 2013 after reading an article about the practice in other countries. She then visited Finland and spoke with people who had been distributing similar boxes for more than seven decades. This made her realize the importance of combining helpful products with parental education.
“I really wanted to support families on a global scale with that in mind,” she said. "We think it's a program that really resonates on a very core level with a lot of families.”
Dr. Kathryn McCans, chair of the New Jersey Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, also said she thinks the program will encourage parents to be more informed when making decisions regarding their child.
“It’s really about the prevention [of infant death] and empowering parents to make the best choices,” McCans said.
New Jersey already has a relatively low rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome, McCans said, but she still believes there are strides to be made.
“To me, as a pediatrician, if we can do anything to improve knowledge and decrease that rate even further, that’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m hoping if we can do it successfully … then more and more states will follow suit and we will see a national decrease in infant mortality.”