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Baby Boxes to help infants sleep safely

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, still takes too many infants’ lives in Alabama. Even after years of public education on sleep-related causes of infant deaths, Alabama maintains one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation, says Anne Keen of Greenville Pediatrics.

“In 2015, 108 of the 495 infant deaths in our state were due to SIDS. That’s approximately 20 percent of all the deaths. Here at Greenville Pediatrics, we’ve lost eight babies in the last 10 years to SIDS. And that is simply not acceptable,” Keen, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, said.

When she was informed by one of the office receptionists, Summer Walker, about a state-sponsored program, “Baby Box,” available through the Alabama Rural Development Program, Keen and the rest of the medical staff were happy to get on board.

Those who sign up for the program, which is open to all expectant mothers and mothers of infants newborn-three months, will be able to pick up their sturdy, eco-friendly “Baby Box.” The portable box features a firm mattress and fitted sheet, plus a laundry bag of goodies, including disposable diapers and a onesie for baby to wear with a design that reminds parents to be safe and place the infant on its back to sleep. The box and extras are all free to the participants.

“In so many cases, we have parents who can’t afford a crib or a bassinet. And the infant ends up sleeping with the parents. It’s just not a safe situation for the baby,” explained Walker, who is coordinating the program for Greenville Pediatrics (which is also serving as the local distribution center).

“This box is what you need, and it’s really all you need in there with the baby—not blankets, stuffed animals, toys,” Walker said. “It provides a safe sleeping environment for your child.”

Those who want to participate will need to sign up for the program online at www.babyboxuniversity.com, where they will watch a series of short videos and take quizzes in order to earn a certificate entitling them to their Baby Box.

“If you answer some of the questions incorrectly, that doesn’t make you ineligible. They will route you back to the videos for a re-watch as often as you need to do so. The idea is to educate the parents along with providing them with the portable crib,” said Walker.

Once the parents have earned the certificates, they can either print them out, email them or even take screen shots with their phones. “Once you have those certificates, all you have to do is come by our office and you can get your Baby Box. It’s really a simple process,” explained Walker. She also stressed the program is open to all local families and not just those who use Greenville Pediatrics for medical services.

Don’t have a computer? No problem.

“The computers at the public library are available for use and we also have a spare computer right here in our office that people are welcome to use to get signed up, too,” Walker said.

Walker sees the Baby Box as a chance for the pediatric clinic to help parents practice what Greenville Pediatrics has been preaching.

“I remember, before I even worked here, coming in here when my son was a baby and every visit I was asked, ‘Where is he sleeping?’  Every visit.We are very big on education. I think this is a great program that could save lives—and I am glad we are a part of it,” Walker said.

Those who have questions can phone Greenville Pediatrics at (334) 382-9760. Their office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. To 4:30 p.m. (closed from noon until 1 for lunch daily).