On Monday morning, the Assembly Women and Children Committee will review the merits of a safe sleep pilot program for babies launched at the beginning of the year at Cooper Hospital in Camden.

New parents at that facility are offered a Baby Box, made of durable cardboard, that can be used like a bassinet or a crib for the first five months of an infant’s life.

The panel will hear testimony from Riana Fitzgerald Anderson, chairwoman of the Board of the New Jersey Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, and pediatric emergency medicine Dr. Kathryn McCans, the director of the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper, on how the program is working.

After the discussion, the Committee is expected to vote on a measure that’s designed to generate more publicity about the Baby Box program.

“The legislation would require DCF, the Division of Children and Families, to post information on their website about Baby Boxes, and about how safe they are, and their availability,” said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt D-Camden.

She said it’s important to raise awareness about safe sleeping environments for infants and to provide new parents with a simple free alternative to protect their baby.

“For so many people, when they leave the hospital they do not have a crib that has the right type of bumpers and the right type of spacing between the spindles,” she said.

“They do not have a place to put the baby. This particular box provides that type of safe environment for an infant to come home to.”

David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ
David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

Lampett noted that “too many times parents take their infants home, and they put their babies in their bed with them because they feel that’s safe — that is not. Too many times family members roll over suffocating babies, and it’s a nightmare for any family member that happens to.”

She said too many times people put their newborns in cribs with stuffed animals, pillows and blankets — and this is a mistake.

“Those particular items you think are safe and are happy things for a baby are then items that actually suffocate the baby,” she said.

Lampitt says the program already has a track record for lower sudden infant death syndrome in this country and around the world.

“These boxes have been distributed since 1949 in Finland. They’ve been tested, and using this program we can get a better survival rate,” she said.

She said the goal is to have more than 100,000 boxes distributed this year.

According to statement from the Baby Box company, more than 7,000 New Jersey parents have already received a Baby Box, and another 6,000 units will soon be shipped.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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