Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is one of the most common causes of infant deaths in the U.S., and one major risk factor is sharing a bed with parents. So, in order to prevent SIDS, some states are creating programs in which mothers receive boxes for their babies to sleep in when they leave the hospital.
Ohio and New Jersey already have "baby box" programs, and Alabama is starting to test one this week, according to NPR. In addition to the boxes, which contain sheets and foam mattresses, new parents in these states can opt to receive diapers, wipes, onesies, and breastfeeding equipment for free. It's modeled after a similar program in Finland, where hospitals hand out the boxes to soon-to-be moms.
The American parents also watch videos and take quizzes about sleep safety so that they don't unknowingly put their babies in dangerous situations. This type of education works, according to a Temple University Hospital study: 6.3 percent of moms who learned about SIDS slept in the same beds as their babies, compared to a national rate of 11.2 percent.
"The people who can really benefit from this are those who don't have any clue what you need when you take a baby home," Dr. Kristi Watterberg, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on the fetus and newborn, told NPR. "They don't have the social structure to support them. These are the moms who most need what's in that box and the box itself."
In addition to lacking the education, some parents end up sharing beds with their kids because they can't afford cradles, which is another reason the free boxes can have a huge impact. "Some mothers can't buy a Pack-n-Play or a crib," said Jernica Quiñones, one of the first to participate in the New Jersey program. "I'm excited even if it saves one child."