Out of the box?

When it comes to safe sleep initiatives, it pays to stick with what works.

Here’s what we know about sleep safety: The best, safest way for a baby to sleep is on her back in a crib or bassinet. We also know that this is so much easier said than done, because being a parent of a newborn is hard.

“You’re exhausted, you’re just trying to survive, and someday you’re going to fall asleep with a baby on the couch,” says Dr. Ben Hoffman, pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and medical director of the OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center. “But because more babies die from sleep-related deaths than die from cancer or car crashes, we need to make sure every family has a safe space for their kid.”

Ten babies are lost to sleep-related deaths every day in the United States alone – so it’s understandable that well-meaning organizations have jumped to promote sleep initiatives like baby boxes.

“The first time I heard about the boxes, I thought, that’s so disruptive that it just might work,” recalls Dr. Hoffman. But when he looked into the data, he wasn’t convinced. Fewer than 40 percent of families in Finland (where the boxes became popular) report using the box even once, and there’s no data to suggest their success in reducing infant deaths in America.

Furthermore, manufacturers say that the boxes should only be used until 2-4 months, or until the baby begins to roll – which happens to be the peak risk period for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Learn more about the Kohl’s Sleeping Safe Program at OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center, and help spread the word if you know someone in need of a safe sleep location who has a newborn or is expecting a baby! You can learn more about safe sleep from your pediatrician, or call the OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center at 503 418-5666.

“What is the family supposed to do then?” asks Dr. Hoffman. “If we can give them a portable crib that meets all the safety standards, has a proven safety record, and can be used long after the baby begins to roll for the same price, why wouldn’t we do that?”

To make sure every family has a safe sleeping space, OHSU Doernbecher partners with Pennsylvania-based Cribs for Kids to send new parents home (for a nominal fee) with portable cribs and bassinet inserts that meet all safety standards. The program also staffs a full-time newborn safety counselor to go over sleep safety, car seats, and home safety, and provides additional resources to help infants and young children get good, restful sleep, which hopefully allows Mom to get some shuteye, too.


This article was written by Allison Jones and originally appeared in the Portland Monthly 2018 Kids’ Health Annual magazine.