A program with the goal of providing babies with a safe place to sleep is proving popular in Port Hardy.
The Baby Bed Program is an Island Health Initiative in cooperation with the Baby Box Company that offers families a free bed with solid walls and a firm mattress and fitted sheet.
The beds can be used until babies are three to four months old, or until they can roll over. Participating families also receive accompanying items like a baby sleep sack, onesie, newborn diapers, thermometer and a baby hat.
“It’s an island-wide initiative based on the Finnish model that they have had since the 1930s to reduce infant death during sleep,” said Marie Mostert, a Public Health Nurse at the Port Hardy Public Health Unit.
After Finland introduced the program in 1938, the country saw a drastic improvement to their infant survival rate, which is now one of the best in the world. Even though BC has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in Canada at 3.7 per 1,000 live births, sleep-related factors remain the leading cause of death in healthy infants.
“The big message about this is that we want babies to have a safe place to sleep,” said Mostert. “It opens up the conversation for us to have with parents – the safest place for a baby is in their own sleeping place without any loose clothes or items around them and on their back.”
Morset also noted the program is particularly beneficial to parents on the North Island.
“The baby beds are easily transportable so parents can take it with them and that’s important, especially in our communities where women have to travel down island to give birth,” said Mostert.
The project was officially launched island-wide by Island Health at the end of September, and Mostert said she is seeing great results.
“Our initial delivery was 20 beds, and of those we have given out 13 since Oct. 1, so I think that is a really good response,” said Mostert. “The moms who have used this have given positive feedback about using the bed.”
Families can participate by registering for the Right From the Start Program which connects them to public health nurses to provide further pre and postnatal support for parents.
Morset said that parents who do not wish to sign up for the Right From the Start Program are still eligible to receive a baby box, noting the program is open to anyone in pregnancy or caregivers who have a baby under three months old.
“Island-wide the program has just taken off and everywhere people are excited about this, so I do think this is a long-term sustainable program that will carry on for many years,” said Mostert.