Minnesota to expand maternity package program

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — A pilot project to provide infant supplies and a safe sleeping option to needy families in the Twin Cities is expanding across Minnesota.

The Babies Need Boxes initiative will launch its statewide program called Baby Box University on Thursday. The nonprofit first launched the pilot program in the Twin Cities in 2015.

Expectant parents first complete the program’s free online course. They then receive a maternity package that includes baby wipes, activity cards, personal care products and onesies. The cardboard box holding the supplies can also serve as a crib for newborns.

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Baby box programs aim to improve infant health care, education and accessibility, said Jennifer Clary, co-founder of Los Angeles-based Baby Box Co. Eighty-five percent of parents involved with the program access it on their mobile device, Clary said.

“I think that our program really buys into what a lot of the public is feeling right now, which is that parenthood is troubling enough, why complicate it?” Clary said.

The baby box movement began in 2013 and was inspired by a Finnish tradition of giving pregnant woman boxes of supplies.

Baby Box University will partner with Minnesota health care and education professionals to create courses that cover topics including safe sleep practices, breast-feeding and postpartum depression.

University officials hope their efforts will help lower the state’s infant mortality rate. There were about five infant deaths for every 1,000 births in Minnesota from 2013 to 2015, according to a Centers for Disease Control report released this month

“I think it’s a relatively simple intervention that can have huge impact,” Clary said. “I hope that the families in Minnesota really enjoy its mass introduction, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Minnesota is the seventh state to launch the initiative.