Have you heard about the Finnish “baby box”? For decades, the Finns have given every new baby a big cardboard box filled with free diapers, wipes, warm clothes, etc. And at the bottom of the box is a thin mattress. You get the idea, once the goodies are removed, what remains is an inexpensive little baby bed to keep an infant on the floor right next to Mama all night.

The very simple idea has caught on beyond Finland, with free baby box programs popping up in Canada, England and now, the United States. New Jersey now gives aways baby boxes, too!

The basic reason for using cardboard boxes is to give families a cheap and easy way to avoid having a baby sleep in their parent’s bed or some other risky place where pillows, blanketsor parental body partsmight accidentally cover a sleeping baby’s face and cause smothering.

But, are they really better? Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on the safety of the baby box. Their verdict? Hmmm…they’re just not sure.

“Currently, the AAP Task Force on SIDS does not believe that there is yet enough evidence to say anything about the potential benefit or dangers of using…baby boxes,” writes Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., FAAP in the AAP statement.

She goes on to point out that Finland has not done studies on their box, and New Jersey hasn’t announced any science-based research to coincide with their program.

“That is a real shame,” Dr. Moon comments. “We need to know what, if anything, about the boxes is effective, and what, if anything, is ineffective or even potentially a limitation to their use…In this case, it appears that the enthusiasm and excitement (which is good) has outpaced the knowledge that we have.

Open Questions on the Baby Box

Does a box on the floor protect the baby from the family dog?

Could a box put on a high perch get knocked over?

Might some moms and dads put blankets or stuffed animals in the box and thus introduce a suffocation risk?

Does a box do anything to improve a baby’s sleep and reduce the temptation that an exhausted mom will accidentallyor intentionallyfall asleep with the baby in her bed?

More research is needed.

Baby Boxes Aren't Just About Freebies

In Finland, the free box + free stuff are the “sizzle," but parent education is the “steak.” Moms getting the box must agree to come in for a prenatal/safety visit. And, in Canada and New Jersey, parents must watch educational videos and pass a quiz to get the baby boxes.  

So while it’s very clear that the intentions behind these programs are very good, unfortunately, it’s yet not if they are safe for sleeping.

Credit: Screengrab via CBS This Morning

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