Updated August 2018
Baby boxes are blowing up right now.
We interviewed one of the co-founders of the Baby Box Co., Jennifer Clary, so we could tell you about them firsthand.
Perhaps this is just my personal taste, but I think the baby box is visually appealing. The “design,” if you can call it that — I mean, it’s a box — is basic and clean. Compared to many other baby products that tend to be big, loud, and flashy, the baby box is understated, mature, and cosmopolitan…it doesn’t scream “baby” when you see it.
Plus – I don’t know exactly what it is about this box, but babies just look adorable in it. Like, can’t-look-away, irresistible adorable. So there’s that.
But let’s get into the nitty-gritty details. First, the (one and a half) drawbacks:
The major downside of the baby box is that it’s (best) placed on the floor. Translation: the baby box can sometimes be an inconvenient bassinet.
Scooping a baby up from the floor might not seem like that big of a deal, but when your postpartum, depleted, never-knew-this-kind-of-exhaustion-existed body has to squat or crouch down multiple times in the middle of the night to pick up your baby, then tell me what you think. Yea. It may not be the end of the world, but it’s a huge PITA.
During the day, if you’re using the baby box in different areas of your home, you might need to keep it out of reach of dogs/pets or other children (ahem, toddlers) who might try to drag the box around, get inside with baby, or pile every blanket in the house on top of it without you noticing (not that any of this happened to me, of course).
Can you “fix” this floor issue? Maybe. If you have a coffee table or some other sturdy, low-lying surface to put the baby box on, that could work. We don’t, and I just don’t feel comfortable putting it up higher on a table or countertop.
The only other potential disadvantage to the baby box is that the sides aren’t see-through, as is the case with many other bassinets. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, but it’s something worth noting.
And now, on to the sweet stuff…
The baby box has a lot going for it. It’s safe, simple, and ultra-portable. There is NO setup, and it’s crazy easy to use. Baby boxes are great for families who travel by car, and they are incredibly green.
Indeed, a baby box is perfect for car trips – it can double as baby’s suitcase! Simply load up the box with your stuff, throw it in the car, and you have your baby’s bed – complete with all its familiarity and smells – packed for your trip.
Baby boxes are recyclable and can easily be repurposed for toddlers (as toy boxes, spaceships, doll beds, etc.) or for any kind of storage. And you probably will want to keep it, since the baby box is surprisingly durable and sturdy.
Most of all, though, the company…
The Baby Box Co. itself is a huge attraction with this product – this is a civic-minded company that’s doing what it can to make a positive impact both on families’ everyday lives and on the nation’s public health. Very cool.
The Baby Box Co. is all about data. And science. (Love this!) Here’s the dish:
Following on the heels of a media storm covering Finnish baby boxes a few years back, co-founders Jennifer Clary and Michelle Vick set out to bring some form of this “beautiful tradition” to the United States. After they got started, Clary traveled to Finland and met with the Finnish government’s health department to learn and see firsthand how the baby box program works there. She came away with the realization that the boxes themselves have very little to do with Finland’s impressive infant mortality rate; it’s really about access to prenatal health and maternity care (but that’s a conversation for another day). Her visit to Finland taught Clary that the most important thing about the baby box tradition was not the baby box, but the health care, information, and education that goes along with each one.
Thus, The Baby Box Co.’s mission is to use baby boxes as a mechanism to extend information and education about safe sleep to everyone. Clary and Vick see the boxes themselves as a symbol – something that represents The Baby Box Co.’s drive to afford equal access to information and safety for all families, especially low income families whose babies are at higher risk for SIDS. Beautiful, indeed.
Here’s how it works:
In areas that have active programs set up, The Baby Box Co. has partnered with state health departments and hospitals to offer a FREE baby box to any family that completes courses on safe sleeping practices. Anyone in the designated area can qualify — not just parents (and this would be a great thing for grandparents to have around).
Check here to see if there’s a program where you live.
Once you complete your syllabus, you’ll receive a voucher, which you can then use to snag your free baby box. The company is aiming to have a program in every state by the end of 2018 – cheers to that. In fact, The Baby Box Co. just rolled out its California program — it’s the company’s largest initiative to date. Californians, make haste!
The educational arm of The Baby Box Co. — Baby Box University — is what’s so impressive about the organization. It’s mainstreaming safe sleep education without the stigma or condescension that typically go along with safe sleep propaganda, and it’s doing so by distributing baby boxes. (BTW, anyone can access the teaching materials, whether there’s a formal box distribution program near you or not.)
The Baby Box Co.’s safe sleep education coursework is really working – some 96% of people who participate still retain the content 6 months later. And almost 75% of American parents who have one are using a baby box as a primary or secondary sleep surface (that’s almost double the proportions in Finland!).
In fact, because The Baby Box Co. has mainstreamed so successfully, it’s come in for some flak recently from skeptics who question the product and its safety, on the grounds that “we don’t have any data on baby boxes yet.” But The Baby Box Co. has done its homework – baby boxes have (voluntarily) passed every category of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s testing and standards for bassinets with flying colors. (The CPSC is currently developing separate standards for baby boxes, btw.) They’ve also undergone tons of international testing (not to mention that the boxes also comply with bassinet standards in Canada and Europe). And so far, there are all of zero injuries associated with the product.
The Baby Box Co. isn’t purporting that baby boxes are the be-all-end-all when it comes to safe sleep – far from it. When I asked the company’s founder, Jennifer Clary, what she would say to critics who think the boxes have come into widespread use too quickly, she intimated that they’re having the wrong conversation. “The box is just an inanimate object,” she told me. “When it’s used correctly, it’s SAFE. But it’s all about how you use it.” So is every other bassinet, which is why she and her company are so passionate about safe sleep. Their mainstay is about education and information, not just a product.
Side note: I’ve spent upwards of six years researching SIDS science and the history of ideas about “safe sleep,” and I think what The Baby Box Co. is doing is incredible. I’m a born skeptic – I always want more data, more answers, more information – and personally, I’m convinced that the baby boxes are a safe place for babies. I am using one for my newborn daughter, and we’re both sleeping great.
Bottom Line: I love having the baby box around – it’s safe, simple, aesthetically pleasing, and convenient. It’s a wonderful (car) travel bassinet, and incredibly portable around the house, besides being environmentally-friendly. I would 100% recommend that anyone who has the option of scoring a free baby box do so – not only to get the box itself, but also because the required safe sleep coursework is so valuable. Even if you already have a bedside bassinet, it’s worth having a baby box as a secondary option. If you’re not in an area with a baby box program, I’d add it to your short list for a bassinet; $70 may seem steep for a cardboard box (click here to buy), but it’s actually one of, if not the, most economical newborn sleeping arrangements.