Sunday April 09, 2017

Low-tech "Baby Box" is taking off around the world

A mother checks on her three month-old daughter as she wakes up from a nap inside her "baby box".

A mother checks on her three month-old daughter as she wakes up from a nap inside her "baby box". (Laurie Skrivan/AP)

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There's a hot new baby bassinet that's taking off around the world.

But, it doesn't have speakers, motors, or wi-fi. There's no built-in swaddling system, it's not "smart", and it's actually not that "new".

It's a cardboard box!  

352 Emily Matchar

Emily Matchar

Journalist Emily Matchar has written about the growing popularity of the " Finnish Baby Box".  

Since the 1940s, every pregnant woman in Finland has been given a baby box filled with helpful items in return for attending a prenatal clinic.

The box itself can be used as a bassinet.

"It was initially created to help lower Finland's infant mortality rate, which was very high in the 1930s," says Emily.

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In an effort to reduce infant mortality, the boxes are functioning bassinets complete with a sheet and mattress as well as essential baby supplies given free-of-charge to all mothers who deliver. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Lately, the baby box has been catching on in other countries around the world, including Canada.

Baby box programs are being developed on state and provincial levels, and through hospitals and companies.

It part the box's growing popularity due to the fact that it's so low tech?

"Absolutely!" says Emily.

"I got a baby box for my son when he was born last year, and one of the reasons I liked it is because we looked at these bassinets, and they can be hundreds of dollars, and the baby is only going to sleep in it for maximum six months before they outgrow it.

It didn't make sense. I liked the idea of something that was very simple very low tech that you can in fact recycle when you're done with it."

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

The baby box is certainly inexpensive and portable, but what about the claims out there that it reduces infant deaths?

352 Rachel Moon

Dr. Rachel Moon

"I think that the enthusiasm for the box has outpaced any evidence that we have for the box. It hasn't been tested," says Dr. Rachel Moon, a University of Virginia pediatrician who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' Task Force on SIDS.

"We've actually urged the baby box companies to do research and as far as I know, no one has said that they are going to do it."

While there's no evidence that the box itself directly reduces infant deaths, Emily reports one benefit.

She says being engaged with the health care system (which often distributes the boxes) does help reduce infant mortality.

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A baby box, containing a small bed pad, covering, diapers, books and other things to help a family getting started with a new baby. (Michael Penn/AP)

So, where will the low-tech baby box go from here?

"Now that it's becoming widespread, it's less of a strange idea," says Emily.

"I think people will come to see it as a normal thing, and that it makes sense as a safe place for your baby to sleep that doesn't cost a lot of money."