UPDATE: As of March 2017, Ohio and Alabama officially joined New Jersey in offering free baby boxes to all state residents with newborns. According to NPR, Ohio plans to distribute an estimated 140,000 baby boxes to new parents, while Alabama is expected to give out 60,000. All boxes will be provided by the Baby Box Co., which is based in California.
Since 1938, new parents in Finland have been sent home from the hospital with one unique, yet simple gift: A cardboard box, filled with everything from clothing to diapers to toys. It’s part of a government-funded program, intended to give new parents a little financial relief and all babies an equal start.
But it’s not what’s in the box that’s proven to be most beneficial — it’s the box itself.
Finnish “baby boxes” are designed to be a baby’s first bed; which is why they come with a small mattress on the bottom and a fitted sheet. And while it may seem a bit against nature to put your sleeping newborn in a cardboard box, they have actually been credited with dramatically lowering the country’s infant mortality rate.
Those numbers haven’t been lost on the rest of the world — and now, it looks like similar programs are starting to catch on here in the States.
Each one will come stocked with plenty of newborn essentials from participating brands — including Pampers Swaddlers diapers, Pampers baby wipes, Vroom activity cards from the Bezos Family Foundation, Lansinoh breast pads and nipple cream for breastfeeding moms, a onesie, and more.
It will also come bearing a unique design inspired by one of the state’s most treasured family vacation spots: the Jersey Shore!
In a press release obtained by Babble, The Baby Box Co.’s CEO Jennifer Clary stated:
“Every parent has a right to the necessary tools to care for their infant and every child deserves a safe and supported start in life. New Jersey officials and health professionals have come together in a collaboration which embodies this truth, ensuring that basic child-care resources and education are universally accessible to families statewide.”
And that “safe and supported start” will hopefully have big impacts when it comes to the state’s infant mortality rate — which currently sits at 4.4% (versus the national rate of 5.98%), according to the CDC.
“The Baby Box initiative is a promising addition in ongoing efforts to reduce the tragedy of SIDS,” added Judy Donlen, RN, DNSc, JD, Executive Director of the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative. “We are especially excited about the benefits for new parents provided through Baby Box University, an innovative, electronic gateway to resources and information.”
Unlike the Finnish baby box program, New Jersey parents won’t all be handed over a box on their way out of the hospital — but the steps towards getting one are pretty easy.
According to the Baby Box Co., parents-to-be should:
1. Register at BabyBoxUniversity.com
There’s no cost to register — everything about this program is completely free — but parents must provide proof of their New Jersey residency, including their mailing address and other contact information.
2. Watch a quick informational video.
The 10-minute video is all about empowering parents, providing them with free access to educational tools online through the Baby Box University. (So don’t worry, you’re not being sold anything.) But you will have to take a short quiz afterwards. Once you complete it, you’ll get a certificate of completion and be able to select local pick-up or direct delivery of your Baby Box.
According to a 2016 report by the CFNFRB, an estimated 93% of infant fatalities associated with Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) were directly related to the safety of sleep environments — which makes the proven success of baby box programs even more reassuring for parents and medical experts everywhere.
Here’s hoping more states follow New Jersey’s lead!