Babies in boxes: How one organization is hoping to reduce infant mortality rates in Ohio

Posted at 5:55 AM, Mar 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 06:35:15-04

Hearing her baby's first cry is something expectant mother, Mautrice Hogan is anxiously anticipating.

"It's very scary, no matter how many times you do it because you just don't know," Hogan said.

Preparing to have her third child after 11 years, she says there's so much she's been learning this time around.

"It's vastly different, I mean it's almost kind of scary the information I didn't know, but luckily my daughter turned out very very healthy," she said.

Scary statistics

Hogan is right to be nervous, considering the alarming reality of infant mortality.

"Ohio actually ranks, 43rd out of 50 states for infant mortality," said Celina Cunanan, UH Rainbow Babies and Children Nurse Midwife and Founder of the organization, "Babies Need Boxes Ohio."

Cuyahoga County is among the worst of the country, especially for African-American babies.

Cuyahoga County's infant mortality was 10.5 in 2015 with 156 infant deaths in about 15,000 live births. Only Mahoning County fared worse. Source: Ohio Dept. of Health

"Our African-American babies are gone three times the higher rate than white babies here in the area, which is certainly alarming, there's no reason that it should be that high," Cunanan said.

Boxing up a solution

That's why she teamed up with the national Baby Box Company initiative to start Babies Need Boxes Ohio, sending new mommies home with the boxes for free. Advocates say the boxes, with their simple design and lack of potentially dangerous features, can mean the difference between life and death for babies.

CONNECT: Babies Need Boxes Ohio on Facebook

"Regardless of any race, or ethnic background or socioeconomic background, we all want the same thing, we all want our babies to be safe, we all love our children," said Cunanan.

With a firm sleeping pallet or mattress, the box is nearly 27 inches long and can hold a baby up to six months old. And not only are these boxes safe for sleeping babies, they come packed with new mommy goodies.

"These boxes I'll come with diapers, wipes, breast-feeding supplies," Cunanan said.

And there's more

But this not just about the box. New mothers like Hogan go through an education module before their baby, and their box, go home.

"It just makes me feel better equipped, that I can have a safe sleeping environment," said Hogan.

The baby box company hopes to give out 140,000 of these baby boxes to Ohio residents by the end of 2017.

MORE: Visit the Babies Need Boxes website for more details