(Reuters Health) - Providing new mothers with a “baby box” - a cardboard bassinet with a mattress and fitted cotton sheet - reduces the likelihood that they’ll adopt the unsafe habit of sharing a bed with their newborn, new research shows.
Bed-sharing is a key risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends room sharing without bed-sharing for safer sleeping, as well as using a firm mattress, breastfeeding, placing the baby on his or her back to sleep, keeping the bassinet or crib bare of blankets, pillows and any other soft items, and avoiding exposure to smoking, alcohol and other drugs of abuse.
A previous survey of 1,200 new moms, conducted by Dr. Megan Heere of Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and colleagues, found that mothers who received sleep education in the hospital were less likely to bed share, but those who did not have a place for their baby to sleep were at increased risk.
To address these issues, Heere and her team developed the Sleep Awareness Family Education at Temple, or SAFE-T, program, which includes face-to-face education from nurses on the AAP sleep safety guidelines, and a baby box packed with diapers, wipes, clothing and other baby supplies.
To investigate whether SAFE-T reduced SIDS risk factors, the researchers looked at 2,763 mothers and newborns discharged from the hospital in 2015 and 2016. Within three days of discharge, the mothers were surveyed about their baby’s sleep environment. The researchers compared survey responses before and after the introduction of education and baby box distribution in 2016.
At the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco, Heere reported that before introduction of the SAFE-T program, 6.5 percent of mothers reported bed-sharing, compared to 4.7 percent of those who participated in SAFE-T.
For mothers who exclusively breast-fed their infants, the rate of co-sleeping was 11.3 percent before the intervention and 5.9 percent afterwards. Fifty-nine percent of the mothers who exclusively breastfed their babies and used the box said it made breastfeeding easier.
Most mothers who received a baby box reported using it as a secondary sleep spot for their infant, while 12 percent relied on the baby box as the baby’s main sleeping space.
Temple University Hospital, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Kohl’s Cares for Kids provided funding for the baby boxes.
Baby boxes have been distributed to all new moms in Finland since the 1930s, Heere told Reuters Health by phone.
In the U.S., however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns on its website that cardboard boxes for babies "are currently not subject to any mandatory safety standards." The Commission says it is working with baby box manufacturers, child safety experts and other interested parties to develop safety requirements for cardboard baby boxes.
In the meantime, the Commission urges parents and caregivers to remember: always put the baby to sleep on his or her back, and a bare sleep surface is best.
Pediatric Academic Societies 2017.
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