Virginia Hops on Finnish Trend and Provides 'Baby Boxes' to New Parents

Aug 23, 2017

 

A nurse demonstrates a baby box in Philadelphia. The boxes are meant to encourage safe sleeping habits, in the room with an adult but not in the same bed. All new parents in Virginia will soon be eligible for a free box of their own.
Credit Matt Rourke / AP

 

Parents have all heard the advice: you’re not supposed to sleep with your newborn baby. According to the CDC, in 2015, an estimated 900 infants died from preventable sleep-related accidents.

Now, Virginia is kicking off a safe sleep initiative, beginning with a unique practice that began in Finland: baby boxes.

“The baby boxes, I think it’s a beautiful thing. I really do,” says Chris Johnson as he lowers his baby girl Jade into, of all things, a cardboard box.

For the first couple months of her life, Jade slept in a baby box like this one, a firm mattress fit snugly into the bottom. In Finland, every expectant parent gets one from the government for free, along with education on safe sleeping.  

“I think if you look at the experience from Finland where their infant death rate has gone from stratospheric levels down to less than half of the United States infant death rate, something in this combination is working,” says Bill Hazel, Virginia’s Secretary of Health.

 

And so beginning this September, every new parent in Virginia will be eligible for a free box of their own. All they have to do is watch an online video and take a short quiz.

 

Boxes in Virginia will come with information on safe sleeping and breastfeeding plus resources like diapers and wipes.
Credit Mallory Noe-Payne

The resources will be provided at no cost to the state by The Baby Box Company. In exchange, they get a new customer base.

“We have an ecommerce shop where we sell things like onesies, extra sheets and accessories, and we have a very loyal following, because we do reach out to them at their prenatal stage,” says Jennifer Clary, founder and CEO. “And parents come back and they shop from us.”

Virginia will join five other states that already provide the service, including Alabama and New Jersey.

Virginia’s Department of Social Services is also launching a study on whether more intensive education can make a difference in death rates. Participants in Richmond will get home visits from a pediatric nurse.

 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association