Giving a Chance to Newborns: Baby Care Boxes to Decrease Infant Mortality

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The legendary baby boxes distributed by the Finnish government to new mothers are being replicated in the US post-partum specifically to promote good sleeping habits and reduce infant deaths. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the third leading cause of infant mortality or 5.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2015 according to the CDC. Several American states are distributing these boxes to complement post-natal awareness among mothers especially those on the low end of the income spectrum. Hopefully, it will reduce infant mortality giving these little ones a chance to thrive and grow.

The Finnish Success Story

In the 1930s, Finland decided to do something about the alarming infant mortality rates in the country. Baby beds made of cardboard were distributed to expectant mothers complementing pre-natal care. Inside the box were things that a newly born baby would need such as a blanket, diapers, sheets, and toys. First available only to low-income families, it was modified to include all expectant mothers as beneficiaries. The only catch was that those in the family way should consult a doctor or go to prenatal clinics to qualify. In retrospect, the combination of prenatal care, medication, vaccines, hygiene and good nutrition has helped in reducing infant mortality in Finland.

The American Twist

Everyone knows that child care in the US is expensive with average costs of day care ranging from $6,605 or $20,209 a year according to the 2016 Care.com statistics. The prohibitive costs of childcare have serious repercussions on families or single parents. It denies good quality baby care in the first few years of life which in turn can lead to serious outcomes such infant mortality and poor health. Inadequate child care means a kid has practically little to no chance of developing normally with no access to health services or crucial early education causing poor health and dental care and slow physical & mental development.

 

The distribution of baby boxes can help low-income families give newborns a chance to survive by preventing SIDS. Because many families cannot even afford to buy a proper crib for their little ones, these starter kits and important baby care accessories can help during the first few months of their life. Instead of using it as an incentive for pre-natal check-ups, baby boxes in the US are meant to encourage women to promote good sleeping habits for infants. Currently, the program is underway in New Jersey, Alabama, Texas, Colorado and Ohio.

Although there is constant debate about the safety of using these boxes as beds for infants with medical authorities saying that it is not clear whether reduced infant mortality is due to the box or to an improved pre-natal care, one thing is sure though. Parents are not given the box unless they have been trained on its proper use and the importance of safe sleeping habits. If anything, the baby box program not only helps low-income families get started safely but also improves a newborn’s chances of survival. And that is the impact that its distribution hopes to achieve.

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