Want a Baby Box?
You can also buy a Baby Box online at babyboxco.com. Boxes start at about $80 online and go up, depending on what they're stocked with. You can also choose specific prints if you want to upgrade.
Throughout her pregnancy, Ashley Hicks felt waves of anxiety. Most of her fears centered around keeping her new baby safe.
The Longmont mom wanted to share a room with her baby when he first came home from the hospital, but she wasn't sure where he could sleep. The bedrooms in her home, built in the 1970s, were too small for both her king-sized bed and a pack-and-play or crib. And she had heard warnings against sleeping in bed with an infant.
"I wanted to have the baby safe no matter what," she says.
Then, she found a solution. It was simple, safe and, even better, totally free. It was a Baby Box, offered at the Boulder Community Hospital.
A Baby Box is, quite simply, a sturdy cardboard bassinet, equipped with a firm, safe mattress. It's designed for babies up to six months old. Baby Boxes have a history in Finland, where the government has been distributing them for 75 years. Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Inspired by Finland's program, Boulder Community Health and the Rocky Mountain Children's Health Foundation this year began giving away free Baby Boxes to any new parents in the community. All parents have to do to get one is watch an educational video online and take a quick test. The goal: to educate parents, promote safe sleep for babies and help prevent sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. This is the sudden death of an infant that usually happens during sleeping.
SIDS is the third-leading cause of death among infants in this country. Every year, about 2,500 infants die of SIDS in the United States. While the exact cause of SIDS is not known, research has identified some things that put babies at greater risk: sharing a bed with parents, sleeping on the side or stomach, getting too warm, and sleeping on a soft surface. While sleeping in the same bed as the parents is a risk, sleeping in the same room but in a different bed decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, studies found.
That's where the Baby Box comes in.
For Hicks, it allowed her to put her newborn on her bed, yet separate from her and her squishy pillows and fluffy blankets. It allowed her to bring her baby wherever she went in the house and always have a quick, easy place for him to nap nearby.
And Temple University Hospital has found that Baby Boxes are effective, as simple as they are. The hospital's study found that when paired with parent education (like the online course), Baby Boxes reduce rates of bed-sharing during the first eight days of a baby's life. The boxes cut co-sleeping rates by breastfeeding moms by half. Fifty-nine percent of breastfeeding moms also said the boxes made breastfeeding easier.
The local Baby Boxes are also stocked with donated products designed to make the first few weeks of parenthood easier. The donations vary but may include educational materials, diapers, wipes, brain-building activities, cotton sheets and breastfeeding support.
Baby Boxes aren't just regular cardboard boxes. They are super durable and actually certified to meet a ton of worldwide safety standards for bassinets. Baby Box Co., which makes the products, is all about being natural and organic when possible, too. So its products don't contain potentially dangerous substances like mercury, lead, formaldehyde and flame retardants. The mattresses are certified non-toxic.
Really, it's not that the boxes are "magic," advocates say; the real magic is in educating parents and giving them a simple and safe solution that's accessible to all. The local course is offered through Baby Box University and created by a team of local experts. In addition to the qualifying course, the website has a ton of other information: more than 7,000 videos, in fact, on just about every parenting topic.
"The biggest impact is the education program. No product on its own can stop SIDS. It's the core education that helps," says Best Start program manager Kayla Roberts, who manages the local program. "That's why you have to complete the syllabus before you get a box."
She says the Colorado course should take 20 minutes, tops, to complete. It teaches parents how to use the Baby Box and about safe sleep, infant development, interacting with your child and other common issues, like what to do if your baby won't stop crying. She says even parents who have had other children can benefit from the refresher or may even learn something new.
In addition to the Boulder hospital, there are about 30 other distribution points for the boxes in Colorado, including in Loveland and Longmont.
Colorado is the fifth state to offer Baby Boxes. Since launching this summer, the Colorado program has already given away about 10,000 boxes. The goal is to distribute 40,000 by May, Roberts says.
Hicks says the Baby Box has been a great tool that has made it much easier to raise her second child than her first. She says she considered buying one during her first pregnancy but didn't have the budget for it. Because she didn't have one, she says she ended up moving her first child into his own room sooner than she would have liked.
"It's been my most prized baby possession so far," she said. "People ask to see the baby's room, and I say, 'No, you got to see the box.'"
Aimee Heckel is a travel writer for TravelBoulder.com.