Tampa non-profit works to lower infant mortality rate with baby box

TAMPA - When it comes to taking care of babies, a local nonprofit is stepping up and equipping parents with tools to lower the infant mortality rate.  

Each year, more than 3,500 babies nationwide die because of unsafe sleeping practices. In Florida, it’s the leading cause of death for babies under the age of one.

ABC Action News takes a closer look at how a box can actually save a baby’s life.

Nestled in the Sulphur Springs community, Layla's House is a safe haven for many Hillsborough County parents.  A place where they can not only take their children to play but also learn how to take care of them.

“When I was pregnant with him I knew absolutely nothing about pregnancy or having a baby," said Camille Lewis.

Most of the families who go to Layla's House have gone through a seven-week Baby University program. Its all part of partnership with another non-profit, Champions for Children.  Together they offer free classes to teach parents the do’s and don'ts. 

“It was a big help. We didn’t know anything about breast feeding or that you’re not supposed to sleep with your baby," said Chanel Anderson.

"We tell them, do not put your baby in the bed, do not sleep with your baby on the couch, and do not sleep with your baby in a chair," said Program Director, Latoya Randolph.

In each of those cases  babies have died, which is why parents who attend the baby university are now being taught about The Baby Box.

Modeled after a program in Finland to lower infant mortality rates The Baby Box is a portable safe alternative to a crib or a bassinet. The Finnish Baby Box has been given free to mothers-to-be in Finland since the 1930's.

At first it was distributed to only those with financial need.  The box is now offered to all expectant mothers and is credited with helping reduce infant mortality in Finland from 65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1938 to two deaths per 1,000 in 2013. 

“Finland has the lowest infant mortality rate. So that tells us that its absolutely working and again, every single family, even the royal family received one of these boxes after they had their first baby.” said Randolph. 

The box comes with a mattress and a blanket, and can even double as a basket babies can sleep or play in.

Carolina Martinez says when she’s working around the house, she puts her one-month-old in the box and takes it everywhere. "I use it when I cook, and it allows me to keep my baby nearby. I also have another daughter and my other daughter likes looking in the box to play with her sister," said Martinez.

In addition to the box, parents are also given essentials needed to take care of their kids. They're given everything from diapers and wipes to breast pumps and even childproofing kits to get families started. Supplies they can store in the box when its not being used by the baby.

“Having a box like this, you know you have somewhere to put him, that’s comfortable and close to the bed and would help a lot.” said Lewis. 

Any family in Hillsborough County can be apart of this Baby University program as long as they are pregnant, parenting or taking care of a child under the age of five.

The class is on Wednesday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. The next Baby University program will start October 21st. 

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