Babies on Vancouver Island have a new, free, safer way to sleep with VIHA providing free baby beds starting Oct. 1. — Courtesy The Baby Box Co. Facebook page

Island Health promotes safe baby sleep with free beds

New parents can get Baby Box bed after earning certificate

A sturdy cardboard box and a mattress can be all it takes to keep a baby safe as it sleeps.

And Island Health has teamed up with The Baby Box Co. to provide them for free to parents.

Starting this fall, local women who are pregnant or families with a new baby up to three months old are eligible for a free baby bed through Island Health’s Right from the Start initiative.

“It’s cool that there’s people in the community that actually offer this kind of support for new moms, or moms who are second, third time around,” said Selina Andres of Parksville, who attended a kickoff event for the program at Beban Park in Nanaimo Monday, Sept. 18., 2017 “It’s a little bit easier than trying to lug around one of those bassinets, the ones that are on wheels.”

Though B.C. has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in Canada (3.7 per 1,000 live births), sleep-related factors are still the leading cause of death in healthy infants, according to a VIHA news release.

“We all want a healthy infancy for our babies,” said Dr. Charmaine Enns, Island Health Medical Health Officer. “Baby beds provide a safe sleep space option as well as visible reminder of safe sleep practices during infancy, which includes putting your baby to sleep on their back on a firm, uncluttered surface.”

Evidence shows that the safest place for an infant to sleep is on a separate, firm sleeping surface close to their caregiver.

The Baby Bed program offers families a free bed with solid walls, a firm mattress and fitted sheet, allowing infants to sleep safely. The beds can be used until babies are up to four or five months old or when they begin to roll.

“This didn’t exist with my first child,” said Andres, who is expecting her second child, “but it would have been very helpful because we were in a very, very small space at the time.”

To get a baby bed, participants must register at rightfromthestart@viha.ca.

Then registrants watch online baby care videos at babyboxuniversity.com to earn a certificate. The certificate can then be presented to a local health unit to get a free bed.

Beds are available from health units for families presenting a certificate after Oct. 1.

The health unit for Parksville Qualicum Beach is located at 494 Bay Ave. in Parksville.

For more information, go to viha.ca/babybed.

— With files from Tamara Cunningham, Nanaimo Bulletin