New Group Makes Sure Babies Have Safe Sleep Spaces

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Bringing a baby home from the hospital is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming as you get all your gear ready. A new group in Iowa is trying to make sure the most vulnerable babies have everything they need to get a good start in life.

Baby Aiza arrived in this world early. Her dad said, "She was 30 weeks when she was born."

After spending seven weeks in the NICU at Blank Children's Hospital, she is ready to go home. And her parents are ready to give her a good start.

A new group called Babies Need Boxes Iowa delivered a box full of goodies to the new mom and dad. The box will also serve an important purpose by providing a safe space for the baby to sleep. Erin Baker said, "It's a water resistant box. It is fitted with a firm mattress in the bottom and a waterproof sheet just like any bassinet would be."

Baker recently launched the nonprofit in Iowa. The goal is to reduce the infant death rate by making sure every baby has a proper place to sleep. It is modeled after a program in Finland that started in the 1930's. "Every baby in Finland, regardless of income, for example, receives a box. So every baby starts in the same place regardless of income or race or religion or anything like that," said Baker.

Inside the boxes, parents will find toys, books, diapers, and other things babies need. Also tucked in there is a folder, which has resources to teach parents about safe sleeping practices.

Dr. Ken McCann, Medical Director of the Regional Child Protection Center at Blank Children’s Hospital, said, "There's the new, what we call ABC's of safe sleep. That babies need to sleep alone, and by alone, in their own protected area. B is place them on their back to go to sleep, and then C is crib."

And since not every family has the resources or room for a crib, Babies Need Boxes Iowa works with community partners to identify families that could use these portable sleep spaces. "We're targeting people who need them the most, so teen mothers, low income, refugee families for example," said Baker.

It costs the nonprofit about $80 for each box, which is filled with developmental toys, books and other supplies babies need. The program is funded by donations. The group is also applying for grants.