In recent days, weeks, months and years, there has been a lot of praise for baby boxes. In fact entire governments from countries around the world have established baby box programs in an effort to provide family support to all parents, regardless of one’s demographic. These efforts, however, have not gone uncontested.
Some skeptics argue that government resources are being misappropriated while others argue about the safety of baby boxes. With so much passion from both sides of the table, please consider the following before using a baby box for your own family.
What is a Baby Box?
Quite simply, a baby box is a cardboard box that is intended to be used as a sleep environment for a newborn between birth and 6 months of age or until the infant outgrows the baby box. Baby boxes are, typically, not your average cardboard box that your receive from your latest ecommerce purchase. These boxes use reinforced, virgin corrugated cardboard that is free of any toxic chemicals. The most simple form of a baby boxes come standard with a mattress and sheet to meet the basic sleeping needs of a newborn child.
The concept of a baby box or “maternity package” originated in Finland in the late 1930’s as an effort to reduce the country’s high infant mortality rate. Kela, Finland’s social security program, finances this family benefit. The goal of the program was to incentivize mothers to utilize the healthcare system and educate them about safe sleeping habits. Today, Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and, although, the Maternity Package program is not solely responsible for this incredible accomplishment, many do believe that this program has played an important role in this achievement.
The original concept of a baby box has evolved over the years into more than just a baby box as a sleeping environment. Most baby boxes also include essential products that a new family might need including bedding, clothing, thermometers, diapers and other essential newborn products.
Today, many government entities, healthcare organizations, and nonprofits around the world have taken notice and have started similar programs of their own in an effort to support families in their communities. Baby boxes are also available for purchase online for those individuals who are not lucky enough to have an organization purchase one on their behalf.
Do Baby Boxes Really Work?
A simple Google search will prove that baby box skeptics are aplenty. First, the idea of putting your baby in a cardboard box seems a bit shocking to many. With the recent advancements in technology, could something so simple as a baby box be so effective? The new bassinets on the market that cost over $1,000 must be safer, right? Not necessarily. There has been no correlation to prove that the more you spend the safer your baby will be - but to many, the simple act of spending more money provides some peace of mind.
The 3 major arguments that baby box skeptics use are (1) lack of empirical evidence that baby boxes help reduce SIDS (2) the experts do not endorse baby boxes and (3) baby boxes do not meet safety regulations.
While it is true that there have not been many published studies about the effectiveness of baby boxes to reduce SIDS, it is NOT true that there have not been any studies. Nor is it true that there have been studies that show that baby boxes are dangerous. A published study by Temple University that conducted a survey of 2,763 mothers concluded that baby boxes, combined with personalized sleep education, reduced the rates of bed-sharing a key unsafe infant sleep practice during the first week of infancy.
It should also be noted that baby boxes are a relatively new concept to the mass market and while they may not be endorsed by experts nor meet safety regulations there is an explanation for both.
First, just because a product is not endorsed by an expert, does not mean that it is to be avoided. Most medical experts are risk-averse and, before they officially “endorse” a product, they tend to want a lot of empirical data to support their position. Although baby boxes currently have a lot of anecdotal evidence (more than 80 years of use in Finland and not a single known injury or death as a result of the direct and intended use of the product) there have not been a lot of scientific studies published regarding the usage of the baby box product.
To the same point above, because there have not been any cases related to injury or death as a direct and intended use of the product, there has not been a need for oversight and/or regulation. That being said, given the recent popularity of baby boxes, there are committees of experts actively meeting to determine how to classify the baby box product and which regulations they need to adhere to. The challenge with regulating baby boxes is there are no specific cases of injury or death to consider to create legislation around.
While considering a baby box or any other baby product for your children, it is important to consider the source of fear-based skepticism. Does the source have a financial interest in the success or failure of the product? Is the criticism valid or is unsubstantiated? Is the concern being wordsmithed or is it a valid claim?
We are lucky to live in a world in which we have access to plenty of information, but not all of this information is accurate or without the intent to influence. We are often bombarded by claims of all sorts. As such, it is more important than ever that you do your own research on products and services that you intend to use - especially for your growing family. While doing so, consider the sources of information, look at supporting data and research, and make the decision that is most appropriate for your specific needs. When it comes to selecting a sleeping environment for your newborn child, a baby box is a viable option and should be considered.