Despite an ever-growing supply of high-tech bouncers and bassinets, the best sleep option for baby is actually the simplest: a cardboard box.
Cardboard “baby boxes,” containing only a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet, have been trending in the United States – with some states now providing them free of charge to new parents to promote safe sleeping habits. New research shows the boxes, paired with in-person safety education for new parents, could be making a difference, NPR reports.
The study found that when new moms received the box along with face-to-face education about safe infant sleep habits, the rate of bed sharing – which increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – was reduced by 25 percent during baby’s first eight days of life.
“We are pleased with the results of this first-of-its-kind study,” says Dr. Megan Heere, lead investigator of the study, in a press release. “Future studies are needed to determine if the effect of this intervention is sustainable through the first six to 12 months of life, and if this intervention can significantly reduce the incidence of sleep-related death in large populations over time.”
While the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates there’s still “insufficient data on the role cardboard boxes play in reducing infant mortality,” a southeast Michigan nurse-midwife says the growing trend is a positive step for safe sleep.
Emily Dove-Medows, a certified nurse midwife who worked at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak and the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth at the time of interview, says cardboard baby boxes are “a great idea.”
“The main goal is to give parents a safe place to put their baby,” she says. “A lot of moms can’t afford a crib. A lot of new parents can’t afford Pack ‘n Plays. It’s a really low-cost way for public health groups to provide a safe place for babies to sleep.”
The baby box trend, which originated in Finland, hasn’t caught on yet at local hospitals – but it could happen in the future, Dove-Meadows says.
“I think it would be great, and I think we should do more research on exactly how these boxes can help to promote infant safety,” she says. “We have some of the highest infant mortality rates in the U.S., and anything we can do to reduce that is worth looking at.”
In addition to giving baby his own safe sleeping space, the cardboard bassinets are also a way to emphasize the need to put baby on his back to sleep and the importance of keeping baby’s sleeping space free of blankets or crib accessories.
“It’s a cardboard box with a simple mattress and nothing else in the crib,” Dove-Meadows says. “We don’t encourage parents to put a bunch of bumpers, stuffed animals, toys” in the crib.
Many “baby boxes” given out by hospitals also include small gifts like clothing, diapers and wipes. Parents can also purchase a baby box on their own (around $65) or ask for one as a gift.
What do you think of this trend? Would you use one for your baby? Tell us in the comments.
This post was originally published in 2017 and is updated regularly.