Free baby boxes distributed to pre-natal patients

| February 24, 2017

ZANESVILLE ­– Pre-natal patients at the Muskingum Valley Health Centers (MVHC) will be participating in a new program which offers them a free baby box — a portable, low-tech bassinet made of laminated cardboard, which experts say can sharply reduce the chances of sudden infant death syndrome.

Now, MVHC has become the first health center in the region to adopt a broad program to reduce infant deaths by aiming to distribute the baby boxes to all expecting patients. Baby boxes, which have a snug-fitting mattress, have been handed out to new parents for decades in Finland, the country with the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, and less than half of the rate in the United States.

Unsafe sleeping practices include the presence of a blanket, which poses a strangulation or suffocation hazard; parents who sleep next to their babies, creating the potential of rolling onto them; and instances of entrapment in which an infant becomes wedged between couch cushions or between an ill-fitting crib mattress and a crib frame.

While many new parents already have proper gear for their newborns, Jeanie Blake, chief quality officer at MVHC says everyone can benefit from the baby box program, “These boxes can also be a useful supplement to a bassinet or crib as they are easily transported for an overnight stay with grandparents, or to any room in the house, making it easier to check on sleeping baby.” Blake said many new parents will lay a sleeping infant on a couch during the day, as family life typically revolves around the kitchen and living room. But couch cushions can lead to poor air flow around a baby’s mouth. “Many caregivers may not recognize that couches are particularly dangerous,” Blake continued, “But if a baby turns partially, the face might not be clear. If there is a gap, the baby can get wedged.” More than three Ohio infant deaths each week are sleep related and 71 percent of these sleep-related deaths occurred when infants were sleeping some place other than a crib or bassinet.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, from 2007 to 2011, 819 Ohio infants died from sleep-related causes. Sleep related deaths account for 15 percent of the cases reviewed by the Ohio Child Fatality Review, more than any other cause of death except prematurity. Nationwide, about 3,700 infants died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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