Alabama is the latest state to offer baby boxes to new parents
Alabama just became the third state to provide parents with baby boxes, starter kits that not only contain essentials but double as a bed for newborns.
New and expecting parents become eligible to receive one after taking an online quiz about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and general sleep safety as part of a statewide initiative to combat infant mortality.
Baby Box Co. CEO Jennifer Clary told ABC News Alabama especially is facing a "crisis situation" when it comes to infant deaths, with 8.3 out of every 1,000 infants born in Alabama dying every year as compared to the national average of 5.8.
The outlet reported that the state's leading causes of infant death are birth malformations, disorders resulting from short pregnancies and SIDS, the latter of which baby boxes can do a lot to help prevent.
"If every mother in the state of Alabama used the baby box, it could cut the infant immortality rate by 22%," Suzanne Booth, an executive assistant at the Alabama Rural Development Office, told ABC News.
New Jersey and Ohio are the other states leading the baby box charge, both having already distributed thousands of boxes since their program launches earlier in 2017.
The concept, however, comes from Finland, where parents have been using the boxes since 1938, when the government began issuing boxes to new parents filled with basic supplies for their newborn infants. As part of the country's commitment to parental and pediatric health, the government also made it mandatory that pregnant people see a prenatal doctor before their fourth month of pregnancy.
Seventy-five years later, Finland's infant mortality rate puts the United States to shame — for every 1,000 babies born in Finland, just two die, as compared to almost six out of every 1,000 in the U.S. And worldwide, the U.S. takes 51st place for its infant mortality rate, according to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
"It's about getting the information out there," Dr. Kathryn McCans, chair of New Jersey's Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, told NPR on Sunday. "Through education and awareness, people can make better choices and hopefully we can see fewer children dying."