The Little Box that Could Save Your Baby's Life

May 10, 2017

Baby Boxes Now Offered at Shore Medical Center

Brenda Braun has been working in emergency departments for over 30 years, but no amount of experience can prepare her or her team of nurses for the devastating moments when infants arrive in the ED after being accidentally suffocated in their sleep.

"The memories will haunt me forever, of an Emergency Medical Technician crying while performing CPR on an infant, or a parent apologizing over and over again to his baby who did not survive. The reality is, these situations are completely preventable by taking the proper precautions and providing an infant with a safe sleep environment," Braun says.

As clinical educator for Shore’s emergency department, pediatric care center, and maternal child health unit, Braun is passionate about educating parents so they can prevent these devastating situations from occurring. And now, Braun and her team have a new tool at their fingertips to help: the Baby Box. 

The Problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are an estimated 3,500 deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths in the United States each year. Forty-four percent of these are caused by unexplained sudden infant death, with 25 percent caused by accidental strangulation or suffocation in bed, and the rest unknown.

"We need to continue educating parents and teaching them about safe sleep. The Baby Box helps make a safe sleep environment available to anyone regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances," Braun says.

What is a Baby Box?
The Baby Box is a cardboard box with a mattress at the bottom that when used without blankets, pillows or toys will provide the infant with a safe place to sleep. The boxes are small, sturdy and portable and can be placed on the floor next to the parents' bed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that an infant should sleep in the parents' room in its first year of life, and in its own separate space. The Baby Box meets safety standards and serves the same purpose as a bassinet, which is recommended in the first few months of life, but is completely free of charge. It also includes other items like diapers, breastfeeding accessories and educational materials to give a baby its best start in life.

Finland was the first country to introduce baby boxes, about 80 years ago. The country is known for having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, thanks in part to the availability of free baby boxes for all new parents. Baby boxes recently made their debut in the United States, with New Jersey being the first state to offer these free resources. In our area, they are made available through the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, of which Braun is a board member, and New Jersey's Child Fatality & Near Fatality Review Board.

Baby boxes are perfect for both logistical and financial reasons. Sometimes a room is not large enough for a pack and play and the parents' bed. Sometimes it isn't convenient to bring a pack and play when visiting a friend or relative. If the family spends the night with others frequently, it can be cost prohibitive to have multiple items like bassinets and pack and plays.

After the Box
Baby boxes are only a safe sleeping option for babies up to five or six months old. After that, a crib or pack and play should be used. If finances are an issue, organizations like Cribs for Kids (www.cribsforkids.org) can provide connections and resources to free or discounted options.

How to Get a Baby Box
Shore Medical Center has baby boxes available for free to the community. To request a box, call Brenda Braun at 609-653-3752 or email bbraun@shoremedicalcenter.org. Boxes can be picked up 24 hours a day.

You can also have a Baby Box mailed to you by following these steps:

  1. Register at www.BabyBoxUniversity.com, where you will be able to access free health education about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  2. Select the syllabus for New Jersey.
  3. Watch the educational videos and take a short quiz. Afterwards, you will receive a certificate of completion and can select direct delivery of your Baby Box, or local pickup from a designated provider.

For more information on how to prevent Sudden Infant Death or safe infant sleep practices, visit the National Institute on Health’s “Safe to Sleep” website at www.bit.ly/safetosleep

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