By Bill Parry
New parents will be getting life-saving “baby boxes” now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill sponsored by state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) to reduce infant mortality from asphyxiation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The Scandinavian innovation discourages high-risk behaviors of newborns.
The new law creates a pilot program, run by the state Health Department, which will distribute a safe, portable sleep space, literally a baby box, or other innovative means identified in a comprehensive study to be undertaken by the Heath Department. The legislation was passed by the state Legislaturein June and signed into law by the governor Tuesday.
“This is an important law that will create an inexpensive way to support healthy parenting and save babies’ lives,” Simotas said. “I am enormously grateful to my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate and to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his support of this program.”
The baby boxes, which are designed for infants 6 months old or younger, will be distributed in areas of the state with the highest infant mortality rates. Each box has a firm mattress with a fitted sheet which are two key elements for safe sleep.
Parents will be given educational information on the dangers of co-sleeping and the risks posed by blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and loose bedding. Many parents of newborns have no idea that these seemingly innocent items in a crib can put a sleeping baby at risk.
“We cannot ignore the reality for some new families that sleep deprivation and exhaustion, coupled with lack of money to afford a crib, can result in babies being put to sleep in risky ways,” Simotas said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr