New Jersey Giving Parents Free Baby Boxes To Lower Infant Mortality Rate

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New Jersey is now the first U.S. state to launch a universal baby box program. How can the program help reduce infant mortality rate?  (The Baby Box Company | Facebook)

Babies who are born in New Jersey this year are eligible to receive a free cardboard box that can serve as their first crib and comes with newborn essentials.

First U.S. State To Launch Universal Baby Box Program

On Thursday, New Jersey became the first U.S. state to launch a universal baby box program in a bid to reduce infant mortality rate.

Expecting parents or parents of babies younger than 3 months old in the Garden State can take a short online educational program and get the sturdy box that can be used as a safe sleeping space for babies.

Baby Box Co. partnered with the New Jersey's Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board to give the box to parents.

The boxes, which are distributed at Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative and Cooper University Healthcare, come with a waterproof cover, fitted sheet, firm mattress, diapers, wipes, breast pads, breast cream, a onesie and an activity cart, which all cost about $150.

The California-based company will distribute about 105,000 free boxes in New Jersey, which reflect the expected number of births in 2017, to ensure that every expecting family in the state receives one.

Requisites To Receive The Baby Box

To receive a box, the parents need to register at babyboxuniversity.com, where they will provide valid contact information and their mailing address. They also need to watch a series of videos from health professionals that educate parents about caring for their newborn — including topics on safe sleep, breastfeeding, and local family services — after which they will take a quiz for a certificate of completion.

Once the online educational program is completed, the parents can choose to have the box shipped to their address or collect it from the closest distribution partner.

Bid To Reduce Infant Mortality Rate

Finland introduced baby boxes, as well as prenatal care and parenting education to reduce its infant mortality rate in the 1930s. Figures from the World Health Organization show that the country had 65 deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 but by 2013, the infant mortality rate in Finland is an impressive 1.3 deaths per 1,000 births.

New Jersey appears keen in replicating the success of Finland. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (or SUIDS) accounts for 50 to 60 deaths in New Jersey per year. Last year, 93 percent of infant fatalities linked to SUID in New Jersey were associated with sleep and sleep environments.

Organizers of New Jersey's new online program said the program could help parents make safe and healthy choices that can reduce their babies' risk of dying because of unsafe sleep environments. Although unsafe sleeping practices do not account for every SUIDs case, experts said that parental education may help eliminate preventable deaths.

"The important thing to remember about the baby box is the real prevention is the education that comes with the box," said Kathryn McCans, from Cooper University Healthcare. "In taking the online syllabus, we hope parents will learn the importance of safe sleep environments, thus reducing the number of fatalities related to unsafe sleep environments."

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