The free baby boxes have made their way into a red state.
With such a volatile political climate in the U.S., the party lines have deepened even more and just saying you’re a Republican or Democrat is cause for fighting. Supporters of the Republican Party, which is typically against high taxes and welfare programs, are overwhelmingly present in Alabama, a deeply red state that boasts its strong place in the Bible Belt.
Despite its aversion to anything welfare-related, Alabama decided to make an effort to combat their high infant mortality rate by introducing “free baby boxes,” which are currently present in Ohio and New Jersey. The idea for the boxes originated in Finland, where every newborn receives a baby box to give them an equal chance at survival no matter what their parents’ level of income.
Alabama has an unusually high infant mortality rate, where every 8.3 babies die out of 1,000 that are born. The infant mortality rate for black infants was also three times higher than that of white infants. In comparison, the U.S. as a whole has an average of 5.8 babies die out of every 1,000.
“Alabama is sort of in a crisis situation,” Jennifer Clary, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Baby Box Co., told ABC News.
Currently, the top three causes of infant deaths in the state are malformations at birth and disorders caused by short pregnancies like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and low birth weights. The nonpartisan decision to offer the baby box to every mother outweighed the usual opposition to offering anything for free to citizens, though it’s likely because the program won’t be funded by the state, but rather, by private donors.
“We ultimately want to reduce the infant mortality rate in Alabama and assist families in raising happy, healthy babies,” said Governor Robert Bentley said in a press conference at the Alabama Capitol.
The baby boxes work in two ways: the boxes are filled with items to help with the baby’s development and care, such as diapers, baby wipes, educational pamphlets, and breast-feeding accessories, and the boxes themselves are fitted with a firm mattress and a sheet so the babies can sleep in them. Though it may seem very old-school to have a baby sleep in a free box, you’d be surprised at how many new parents can’t afford cribs and would find this free bassinet incredibly helpful.
“If every mother in the state of Alabama used the baby box, it could cut the infant mortality rate by 22 percent,” Suzanne Booth, Executive Assistant for the Alabama Rural Development Office, told ABC News.
Parents in Alabama can acquire the box by first watching an informational video online about SIDS and safe sleeping habits for newborns and then subsequently taking a quiz. They can have the boxes mailed to them at their house or pick them up at a distribution center. Additional tips for parents are to make sure the baby is sleeping on their back and in the same room, but not the same surface, as parents because room-sharing reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%. If you are a citizen of Alabama and would like to get your hands on a box, visit this website to inquire about it.