By pairing a simple box with parental education on safe infant sleep practices, a Temple University Hospital program has reduced the rates of parents sharing a bed with their infants, a risk factor for sudden unexpected infant death (SUID).
Dr. Megan Heere, medical director of the Temple University Hospital Well Baby Nursery, spearheaded development of the SAFE-T Program, which stands for Sleep Awareness Family Education at Temple. Modeled after a program pioneered in Finland in the 1930s, SAFE-T provides parents of babies born at the hospital with safe infant sleep education and a baby box, which is a cardboard bassinet.
Each baby box comes with a mattress, educational materials, information on free smoke detector installation by the Philadelphia Fire Department, and access to a website containing educational videos. The boxes are stuffed with other baby items, from a wearable blanket and a hat with the Temple owl mascot to diapers and a children’s book on how to put baby down to sleep safely.
“The baby box is to be used for sleep for the first one to two months of life, just like any bassinet,” said Dr. Heere, also associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. “They are lightweight, portable, sturdy.”
She said most patients already have a safe space for the baby to sleep, but many use the box as an additional safe space in another room of the house or when visiting relatives.
While no research studies have been done to show that baby boxes reduce SUID, Dr. Heere said, Temple’s own research has shown that the program reduced the rates of bed sharing during babies’ first eight days of life. Dr. Heere said baby boxes paired with safe sleep education reduced bed sharing by 25 percent for all parents who delivered at Temple and by 50 percent in breastfeeding parents.
Photo credit: Temple University Health System
A second study is ongoing to examine the effect of the SAFE-T Program versus discharge safe sleep education that occurs at other hospitals through 8 months of age.
Dr. Heere added that three research studies are in progress to examine the program’s long-term effects on rates of sleep-related deaths and infant sleep environment. Preliminary results, which were presented at the May 2019 Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, show a trend toward sustained effect through three months of life, she said.
Funding for the program comes from the Snider Foundation, private donors, and Temple Health. The boxes are manufactured by The Baby Box Co.