'Baby Box' pilot program at Community Health

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald - 'Baby Box' project director Julie Keeffe packs a box for distribution at Moses Lake Community Health. It's a pilot project designed to help parents learn how to reduce the chance of SIDS or suffocation in newborns.

MOSES LAKE — Helping moms and dads of newborns, and educating them in ways to reduce the chance of SIDS or suffocation in newborn babies, is the goal of a new project sponsored by Community Health Plan of Washington. Moses Lake Community Health is one of the participants in the pilot project trying out the “Baby Box.”

Project director Julie Keeffe, a registered nurse, said the project is designed to “promote safe sleep for babies.”

Studies have shown babies are a greater risk for suffocation or SIDS if they sleep on their tummies; sleeping on the back reduces the chance of deaths from those causes, she said.

“We are focused on educating parents.” The Baby Box itself can be used as a bassinet for babies up to 6 months old.

The box comes with a mattress and fitted cover, along with a soft cotton sheet. It doesn’t have blankets, Keeffe said, because blankets are discouraged for newborns.

So are crib bumpers and toys. Blankets, bumpers and toys can cover a baby’s mouth and nose and as a result increase the risk of something interfering with the baby’s breathing. And babies shouldn’t sleep in bed with the parents, she said.

Of course, there has to be a way to keep Baby warm in lieu of a blanket. So the box includes a baby bunting - garment like a sleep sack, cotton for summer, fleecy material for winter.

Parents watch a short video when they receive the box, emphasizing what Keeffe called “safe sleep” habits.

The box also includes two baby onesies, a pair of socks, a pair of mittens and a hat, a bib, washcloth, burp cloth, thermometer and information for parents of newborns. Expectant mothers receive the boxes in the third trimester of pregnancy.

The Baby Box program is open to Community Health Plan of Washington patients who receive Medicaid, she said.

The pilot program also included the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Community Health Centers in Tacoma and Sea Mar Community Health, which has clinics in 11 Western Washington counties and a clinic in Pasco. “We plan to expand this out because it’s very popular,” Keeffe said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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