Press Release | July 11, 2017

Bill Provides “Baby Boxes” for All DC Newborns - Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau

Bill from Councilmember Nadeau aims to reduce infant mortality in the District

WASHINGTON – Aiming to reduce the District’s infant mortality rate, today Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau introduced a bill that will provide all new parents in the District with a “Baby Box.” The boxes encourage safe sleep practices by serving as a bassinet for infants and will come with essential items for new parents. The bill is modeled after a recent statewide initiative in New Jersey and a long-time program in Finland. The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso, Robert C. White, Jr., Kenyan R. McDuffie, Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Mary M. Cheh and Charles Allen. It was cosponsored by Councilmember Trayon White, Sr.

Abigail4.jpg“Providing a safe place for infants to sleep as well as resources for new parents will help District newborns grow up healthy and strong,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “I want all new parents in the District to have the tools to ensure their infants are sleeping in the safest way possible. Baby boxes are a simple idea that could make a real difference in cutting infant mortality in the District.”

Approximately 2,500 infants die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) every year in the U.S., and SIDS is the third leading cause of infant mortality. While the cause of SIDS is still unknown, many factors can contribute to SIDS, including unsafe sleep placement. In 2014, there were 72 infant deaths in the District, resulting in an infant mortality rate (IMR) of 7.6 per 1,000 live births. In the District, the infant death rate to non-Hispanic Black mothers is even higher at 10.5 per 1,000 live births in 2014. From 2013 to 2014, infant mortality rates increased in Wards 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8. Nationally, the infant mortality rate was 5.8 in 2014.

For 75 years, Finland has had a baby box program which has provided expectant parents with a sturdy box and padding for sleeping newborns as well as necessary items for new parents. New Jersey’s program started at the beginning of this year. This bill would establish a baby box program through the District Department of Health, provide baby boxes to the Child and Family Services Agency to foster youth with infants, and require reporting of the program to measure its effectiveness.

The full text of the legislation, the Infant Mortality Reduction Program Act of 2017, is available online.