Could This Finnish Tradition Hold the Key to Keeping Your Baby Safe?

Could dramatically slashing SIDS rates really be as simple as adopting this Finnish custom? There might be something to it. 

Baby sleeping in a cardboard box Baby Box Company
The co-sleeping debate is one of the most polarizing issues parents face—but what if there was a magical sleeping solution that doesn't involve putting your infant in a crib or beside you in bed? Maybe there's a third solution, one that originated 76 years ago in Finland. Are you ready for this? It's all about putting your baby to sleep in a cardboard box.

Sounds ludricrous? Maybe, but this configuration has had wonderful results in Finland, the U.K., and Canada; infant mortality rates have plummeted in all three places. 

It's not as barbaric as it may sound: You're not placing your baby in any old cardboard box under this method; there are boxes made specifically to use as your baby's first bed...and now they're coming to the United States. New Jersey, in fact, made headlines recently by becoming the first state to give free baby boxes to parents.

Baby Box Co. distributes these boxes, which, according to the company, are just as safe as cribs but cost a fraction of the price and come packed with other items (adorable clothing, teethers and educational material for your children).

While these boxes could be partly resposible for Finland's lower rates of SIDS, the team that will distribute them is not attempting to bill the boxes as the safest sleep options on the market. “Baby Boxes are not better as a safe sleep space than any other compliant sleep space on the market,” Jennifer Clary, co-founder of Baby Box Co. told CBS San Fransisco. “I don’t think it’s helpful to tell parents that they have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a sleep space that their child is going to outgrow in six months. They are an economic solution for safe sleep.”

The boxes are billed as comfortable (they included mattresses free of mercury, formaldehyde, prohibited phthalates, lead and ozone depleters) and compact beds for babies, and the company rests on the principle that every child deserves a safe, secure place to sleep. Boxes can run you as little as $69.99—a bargain compared to the cribs out there. They could work for parents who do own cribs as well—we could certainly see these being used as portable sleepers for babies that come in handy when parents are visiting friends/family, working from a home office or even cooking dinner. 

Babies should fit comfortably until they're around six months old, and after that, the boxes can be used to store toys or other essentials—making them very eco-conscious as well. And with new sleep guidelines suggesting that babies sleep in the same room with parents until they reach a year old, it's an easy way to follow those guidelines, even in the coziest bedrooms.

UPDATE: While the boxes certainly sounded promising, experts aren't quite convinced. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not issued a stamp of approval on the concept, and experts have been weighing in with their own uncertainties about the claims. "The box companies want to do the right thing and want to make sure their products are safe, but we're not quite there yet. There's still more testing that needs to be done," SIDS researcher Rachel Moon, M.D., told NPR

It's important to remember that these boxes aren't medical devices. That's not to say you should not use one, but it might be a good idea to talk through the issue with your baby's doctor to figure out whether it's the right choice for your child—and what you can do to make the box as safe as possible