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Temple University Hospital to Provide Free Baby Boxes to Mothers of Newborns in Order to Promote Safe Newborn Sleep

News May 06, 2016

North Philadelphia has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States with many babies born into poverty and to young mothers who do not have adequate resources to care for a newborn. As a way to address these issues, Temple University Hospital (TUH) will be providing baby boxes – which are functioning bassinets complete with a sheet and mattress as well as essential baby supplies – free-of -charge to all mothers who deliver at the hospital. It’s all part of a new program aimed at addressing the common high risk behaviors associated with infant mortality.

The baby boxes are manufactured by the Baby Box Co. and provide babies with a safe place to sleep in hopes of reducing rates of "co-sleeping," a practice where parents sleep in the same bed with their babies. Temple will also fill each safe sleeper with layette items such as fleece and cotton clothing, a baby book, diapers, a thermometer, nasal aspirator, baby wash and educational materials and resource information.

The baby box distribution, which is a joint initiative between Temple pediatrics and Temple's maternity nurses, is part of the Sleep Awareness Family Education at Temple, or SAFE-T, program. Providing the safe sleepers to mothers of newborns is based on a proven method currently implemented in Finland. In response to a high infant mortality rate in the 1930s, the Finnish government began distributing these baby boxes and the mortality rate has dropped steadily ever since.

"This project is an outgrowth of Temple’s overall commitment to its community and to improving the health and well-being of women and infants," says Elizabeth Craig, DNP, CRNP, FACHE, VP and Chief Nursing Officer of TUH.

"Having a baby can be overwhelming and there is so much for new parents to learn in such a short amount of time. We're trying to ease that transition and help give parents the education and resources they need to provide their babies with a safe sleep environment," says Megan Heere, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, and Medical Director of the Well Baby Nursery at TUH.

Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is a term used to describe any sudden and unexpected death, whether explained or unexplained, that occurs during infancy. SUIDs can be attributed to suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, infection, ingestions, metabolic diseases and trauma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,500 U.S. infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued recommendations for providing a safe-sleep environment for babies, including having a baby sleep on their back on a firm surface and room-sharing without bed-sharing. However, many still engage in high risk behaviors associated with SUID. Temple's SAFE-T program seeks to use safe sleepers and education to curb those high risk behaviors.

SAFE-T contains three phases and data will be collected throughout.
Phase one began in January 2015 and ran a little more than a year. During this time, Temple caregivers provided all mothers who delivered their baby in the postpartum unit standard-practice safe sleep education. Temple then followed up with a post-discharge phone call questionnaire to assess sleep environment for the babies.

Phase two began in February 2016 and will last several months. During phase two, mothers of newborns in the postpartum unit are being provided with more extensive safe sleep education from their care team, including the provision of materials from national safe sleep campaign "Cribs for Kids," followed up with the same post-discharge phone questionnaire.

Phase three began May 3. During phase three, all mothers of newborns in the postpartum unit will receive the extensive safe sleep education as well as the baby boxes. The mothers who receive the baby boxes will also receive access to "Baby Box University," a website containing newborn education videos. Temple will follow up with the same post-discharge phone questionnaire. Phase three will last approximately one year.

Once all three phases are complete, Temple will analyze the data it collected to assess the impact that the baby boxes and the increased safe sleep education had on newborn caregivers’ high risk behaviors associated with SUID.

"It is our hope that increasing safe sleep education and providing the safe sleepers will decrease the rate of those high risk behaviors that can put babies at risk," adds Dr. Heere. "This research has the potential to change how we educate the mothers of newborns."

"We believe that this initiative will be further proof that the passion and dedication of our nursing leaders in collaboration with our physicians can make a big difference in North Philadelphia and beyond," says Craig.

Initial funding for the baby boxes was provided in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Kohl's Cares for Kids, in addition to Temple University Hospital. Also, nurses, staff and friends of Temple University Hospital have been making donations to support the program through a crowdfunding campaign.

Temple is also partnering with the Philadelphia Fire Department on the project. The Fire Department will provide vouchers inside the safe sleepers that will allow the new mothers to have a fire department representative come out to their home and provide smoke detectors where needed.

"It's amazing to see all of our efforts as an organization coming together as we partner with other community leaders to produce better outcomes for our patients and their families," says Jennifer Rodriguez, BSN, RN, Director of Nursing Services at TUH.

Editor's Note: Neither Elizabeth Craig, Jennifer Rodriguez, Dr. Heere nor any members of their immediate families has any financial interest in the Baby Box Co.