Fitness + Well-being

Does your newborn need a baby box?

A newborn in a Temple University Hospital baby box, which serves as a bassinet.

A newborn in a Temple University Hospital baby box, which serves as a bassinet.  (Temple University Hospital)

When babies are born in Finland, the government sends parents home with a cardboard box, a kind of starter kit for baby. Among other things, it includes essentials like clothes, hats, socks and bath towels — and, most important, the box holding it all is meant to provide a space for the baby to sleep.

Now, Ohio and New Jersey are offering these baby boxes to parents. Outfitted with a firm mattress and a snugly fitted sheet, the box is a push to educate parents on what a safe sleeping environment is for newborns. Sadly, in 2015 in the United States, there were 3,700 sudden unexpected infant deaths, which includes cases of “accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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But the question if baby boxes actually reduce risk of injury and death is still up for question, Patricia Gabbe, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and founder of Moms2B (a program that offers support to high-risk expectant moms), told FoxNews.

“We’ve looked at these boxes for the last year. They’re good in the sense that it sends the right message that the baby should sleep without accouterments: no blankets, stuffed animals or baby bumpers,” Gabbe said.

However, Gabbe stressed that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hasn’t yet supported using cardboard baby boxes. “We need more research that looks at their effectiveness, especially in urban cities,” she said. “We support anything that will help save a baby’s life, but there haven’t been safety studies that we need,” she said. Until that happens, she suggested an alternate approach. 

In Columbus, Ohio, Moms2B provides Pack ‘n Plays to moms who need a safe place for their infants to sleep (rather than a box). Last year, the program provided over 1,000 to local families for free.

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“They’re durable, portable, and appropriate for moms to use until the baby is 1 year old,” she said. Baby boxes are limited because when your baby starts to pull up or roll over — they can’t sleep there anymore. Plus, culturally, moms in the U.S. aren’t used to putting their baby in a box, and it may be tempting to put the box (with the baby in it) on the bed, which introduces another danger.

Currently, the AAP recommends that infants sleep in the same bedroom as parents in a bassinet or crib for at least the first six months. Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back, and keep everything (yep, even that cute little stuffed dog) out of their crib.