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Baby Box project marks 100th box milestone

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News from the desk of Helping Hands 

POLSON — As we near gifting the 100th baby box of the year, we would like to share some of the amazing stories and partnerships of this groundbreaking project. 

When we conceptualized the structure of this project, we didn’t realize the connections we would make along the way or how we could positively impact all new mothers. Initially, this Baby Box concept was to offer new mothers and their babies who may be dealing with transitions, crisis in their lives, and even homelessness, a safe space for their newborn. From that, the Baby Box project emerged as a post-natal incentive or “Welcoming Gift” to the newest members of our communities. 

This back to the basics idea of a box or drawer to sleep in, is not a new one. You talk to every grandmother or great-grandmother out there and they will tell you about the “good old days” when their babies slept in a dresser or the laundry basket. When researching this basic idea, we came across the Baby Box Company who actually manufactured something similar to what is used in Finland and gifted to every mother that delivers a baby. In the 1930s the infant mortality rate in Finland was one of the highest in Europe. In 1938 the Finnish government implemented a series of initiatives to address the crisis. The cornerstone of this plan was commonly referred to as the “Baby Box”. The program is still going strong today and Finland has the fifth lowest infant mortality rates in the world. 

We discussed our ideas with several groups including the Mission Valley Ministerial Association, various teams at Providence St. Joes, Helping Hands Advisory boards and many local service providers. Many groups took the initial “Leap of Faith” to purchase the first sets of baby boxes. Thank you so much. These groups put up the initial funding to get the project off the ground. We initially targeted Jan. 1, 2018, as a startup date and wanted to provide a baby box to “every” mother that had given birth in the Polson and Ronan hospitals. The first set of boxes were ordered and had just arrived when we got the call from Dr. Emily Hall that we had a lot of babies on the way and could we consider starting the project a few weeks ahead of schedule. Thus, our baby box project was born.

So began the work of assembling and filling the boxes for our newest members of our communities. We have an amazing team of “Helping and Loving Hands” who have been diligently working on the sewing and stitching and organizing of sweaters, blankets, layettes, hats, sheets, blankets. So many have filled baby boxes with diapers, wipes, onesies and newborn necessities. Their wonderful donations and generosity have been overwhelming.

These welcome gift boxes are typically given out by the provider at their first visit to their doctor. This gift is not just a welcome gift but is designed to be the baby’s first crib with a firm mattress, The simple, effective design of the box coupled with its firm mattress helps promote safe sleeping as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and for a baby up to 5 months, then can be repurposed to store toys, blankets, keepsakes, etc.

So as we come to our 100th baby, I would like to share a brief email from Dr. Emily Hall that underlines the success so far:

Jennifer — The baby boxes have been so appreciated by families. Providence St. Joseph Medical Center is working hard to address community needs and keep young children safe and healthy. As you know, many people in our community are without a crib or bassinet for their infant. Teaching about safe sleep starts early, just after the baby is born in our nursery. We typically distribute the baby boxes to all families with newborn infants establishing care in our clinic and use the gift from Helping Hands as a tool to teach about safe sleep. We know infants sleep best when they are placed on their back on a firm surface without any extra blankets, no smoke exposure, and have a protected safe area to sleep. Since starting this project in December 2017 there have been zero infants in our emergency department who have died as a result of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Together we are making a difference to impact the health of infants in our community. The baby boxes are filled with incredible gifts for new parents. The community effort to support this project is incredible. The boxes have included handmade blankets, outfits, hats — along with other purchased items to support parents in our community. What a joyful message to share from the community to our newest and youngest patients – we care and we want you to be safe. Dr. Emily Hall

With the 100th Baby Box gifted to our newest community members, Jennifer Rolfsness, administrator of Helping Hands would like to say “thank you for the overwhelming support and generosity of our network of caring folks, this is a celebration for all of us to take part in, as we are working together to strengthen our communities.” Sometimes to think outside the box, you just have to start with a box.

For more information on the Baby Box project or if you would like to get involved, please call Helping Hands at 406-883-8256.


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