Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 27, 2016 - 8:00 am

Nunavut government to send baby box care packages to all newborns

Program for new moms aims to cut infant mortality rate, improve family health

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
The GN’s new baby boxes include a selection of children’s books, clothing, baby and maternal care products and education material. The box itself is approved by Health Canada as a safe sleeping space for infants, too. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
The GN’s new baby boxes include a selection of children’s books, clothing, baby and maternal care products and education material. The box itself is approved by Health Canada as a safe sleeping space for infants, too. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Emily Shoapik of Pangnirtung places her two-week-old newborn Rachel Shoapik into one of the Finnish-style baby boxes that the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Health will distribute to the parents of newborn infants over the next year. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Emily Shoapik of Pangnirtung places her two-week-old newborn Rachel Shoapik into one of the Finnish-style baby boxes that the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Health will distribute to the parents of newborn infants over the next year. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

The Government of Nunavut hopes its new “baby boxes” will give a boost to infant and family health across the territory.

Every baby born in Nunavut over the next year receives a care package filled with a selection of children’s books, clothes, baby and maternal care products and educational material.

The box itself is approved by Health Canada for infant sleep so babies can take their first nap inside the boxes as well, by themselves and on their backs, which reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

“Nunavut has the highest rate of infant mortality in Canada, and reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and infant mortality is a priority,” said Health Minister George Hickes, who launched the initiative in the lobby of the territory’s legislative building Oct. 25.

“I’m thrilled that Nunavut is taking the lead on this baby box initiative—the first publicly-funded universal program of its kind in Canada.”

During the launch, Emily Shoapik of Pangnirtung placed her swaddled, two-week-old newborn Rachel into one of the boxes, which she displayed for local media.

The baby box concept comes from Finland; the Finnish Maternity Package or Äitiyspakkaus was first introduced there in 1939 at a time when Finland’s infant mortality rate was 90 in 1,000 live births. That rate has since dropped to just two in 1,000 today.

In 2014, Nunavut’s infant death rate was 14.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, three times higher than the Canadian average of 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Finnish mothers now have a choice between taking the box, with its 50 baby essentials, or cash—roughly $200—but most choose the box as it’s worth much more.

And, in Finland, a baby bottle used to be added to the package but that was removed in later packages to encourage breastfeeding.

Similar baby boxes are handed out to families in other jurisdictions throughout Canada, including in Nunavik as part of its integrated perinatal and early childhood services program.

In Nunavut, the Department of Health expects to deliver more than 800 baby boxes to families across the territory in 2016-17.

Expectant parents can register for a box at their next prenatal appointment or by contacting their community health centre.

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