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Babies Are Sleeping in Baby Boxes—Here’s Why

Babies Are Sleeping in Baby Boxes—Here’s Why

Inspired by the Finnish tradition, baby boxes have now become popular in the U.S., too.

Baby boxes, a Finnish tradition that started in the 1930s, are now being used by parents in the United States. But what exactly is a baby box? Depending on the manufacturer, the adorable boxes come packed with clothes, sheets, breastfeeding supplies, wipes and toys, and the box itself doubles as a safe sleep sanctuary for newborns (complete with a small mattress at the bottom). In Finland, baby boxes are given to parents, by the government, at no cost to them, and may have helped the country achieve one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

Here in the United States, New Jersey was the first state to jump on the baby box bandwagon when they initiated a partnership with The Baby Box Co. Their sleep safety program promotes safe sleep education by distributing baby boxes for new parents. And now, this free baby box distribution program has spread to Alabama and Ohio. All parents have to do is watch a series of online videos that include basic information about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), otherwise known as “cot death,” safe sleeping tips and a short quiz. Once parents have completed the quiz and received their certificate, the baby boxes are mailed to their home address or can be picked up at the nearest distribution center. Baby boxes are also available for purchase online, for new parents in any state.

The biggest draw (and health benefit) of baby boxes is thought to be the reduction in SIDS. The exact cause of SIDS is not always known, but some of the potential hazards can arise while a baby is sleeping—suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation from things like clothing and loose sheets and blankets. Maternal smoking during pregnancy, exposure to smoke as an infant and a room that’s too hot may also increase a baby’s risk of SIDS. Baby boxes help infants stay still, rather than getting tangled or trapped in sheets and blankets.

While baby boxes are meant to bring awareness to safe sleeping techniques, research is needed to confirm if they actually do reduce infant deaths related to SIDS. Finland’s reduction in infant mortality rates could be related to better prenatal care and education—not just to the baby boxes themselves. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there is not enough evidence yet to prove there are benefits or dangers of baby boxes.

Whether your child is sleeping in a baby box or not, here are some must-know safe sleeping techniques from the AAP:

  • Always place your baby on their back on a secure sleep surface.
  • Avoid soft bedding products like crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and toys. A bare crib is best.
  • Avoid sharing a bed with your child.
  • Your baby should sleep in your bedroom until they are at least six months, but preferably until they are one.
  • Babies should never be exposed to smoke, alcohol or drugs.

Before changing your infant’s sleeping environment, it’s always best to discuss options with your pediatrician.

Image credit: The Baby Box Co.

Medically reviewed in November 2018.

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