Why New Jersey Parents Will Soon Be Trading in Bassinets for (Free!) Cardboard Boxes

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Well, this is awesome: Back in May, we told you guys about Temple University Hospital’s baby box program, a year-long program inspired by the government-funded Finnish tradition of giving new parents free cardboard boxes, simply called baby boxes, that double as bassinets, mattress and all, to be used as a bed for the first five to six months of a newborn’s life. The program was introduced in Finland in the 1930s in an effort to reduce infant deaths; they now boast the lowest infant mortality rate of the 27 wealthiest countries in the world. When Temple announced their program last spring, they had 3,000 baby boxes to give out on a universal basis throughout the year, making it the largest program of its kind in the US. But now, it looks like New Jersey is about to one-up them in a pretty spectacular way.

According to a press release from the Baby Box Co., the same company behind Temple’s baby boxes, the folks at New Jersey’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board are launching a year-long pilot program in partnership with the Baby Box Co. this week that gets every expecting family in New Jersey a free baby box, regardless of income. According to the release, the program is funded through a grant from the CDC and they’ll be distributing a whopping 105,000 (around the number of babies born in New Jersey in a year) baby boxes to parents in New Jersey in 2017. All parents have to do to get their hands on a box — which comes filled with helpful items like diapers, baby wipes, a onesie, nipple cream for moms and more — is complete some online parenting education exercises through Baby Box University.

We repeat: AWESOME, right?

The purpose of the boxes is twofold: To promote safe sleep practices by providing a space for newborns to sleep outside of the parents’ bed and to help educate parents on newborn care. As the chair of the New Jersey Child Fatality Near Fatality Review Board Kathryn McCans, also an emergency department physician at Camden’s Cooper University Health Care, said in a press release, “Every year we review instances in which infants die suddenly and unexpectedly. In a significant proportion of these deaths, an unsafe sleep circumstance is a contributing factor. Baby Box University will help families make safe and healthy choices for their children by educating them about simple changes that will decrease the risk that a death will occur due to an unsafe sleep environment or SIDS.”

Sooooo, when can New Jersey parents get their hands on a box? Well, the distribution of the baby boxes will kick off this Thursday, January 26th, at a Baby Box Launch Party at Camden’s Cooper University Health Care. And get this, new Philly parents: The folks at the Baby Box Co. tell us that all parents with newborns under three months of age — regardless of which side of the river they live on — will be able to go home with baby boxes on Thursday. So if you’ve been wanting to get your hands on one, now’s your chance. The event kicks off at 10:30 a.m. and you can RSVP and find more info here. Throughout the year, expecting New Jersey parents will be able to register for their free baby box here and have it delivered to their home or to a distribution partner for pick up. The idea for New Jersey’s baby box program is to gauge the public’s response and see how the program impacts health outcomes during its pilot year, then they’ll decide whether to move forward with it. Okay, your move, Philly. Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how:

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