CLEVELAND - The safest place for your baby to sleep may be a cardboard box.
As odd as it sounds, it could be the key to solving the infant mortality crisis in Cuyahoga County. It's a problem the Baby Box Company is hoping to solve in Ohio and across the country.
Baby Boxes are newborn starter kits that double as a safe sleep space for infants. The boxes come with a custom mattress and fitted sheet. Friday morning University Hospitals in partnership with the Baby Box Company and the non-profit Babies Need Boxes Ohio will distribute the items for free.
"I think there are a lot of things out there that we think we need lots for babies,"said Celina Cunanan a founder member of Babies Need Boxes Ohio and Director of Nurse Midwifery at University Hospitals. "Then you realize you really don't need much. It's a very simple, kind of a minimalist view of having a baby."
According to the CDC and Ohio Department of Health infant mortality rates in the county are higher than the national average. The latest figures for 2015 break down the data by ethnic groups; infant mortality rates for white babies are at 5.5 percent, Hispanic 6 percent, Black 15.1 percent. Black infants died at nearly three times the rate of white babies.
"We need to change the culture," said Cunanan. "We need to welcome all babies into the world the same way. So everyone gets the same start in life."
The Baby Box is based on maternity packages the Finnish government gives to mothers. The box is credited in part with helping Finland accomplish one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Ohio is the second state to launch a universal distribution program. The Baby Box Company has committed to distributing 140,000 free boxes to Ohio families.
To receive a baby box free of charge there are a few steps that must be completed online.