The Baby Box: An Interview with Operation Peaceful Slumber

Baby Box Cincinnati Dayton Ohio

Tell me about Operation Peaceful Slumber. What are its mission and goals?

Operation Peaceful Slumber’s mission is to improve sleep practices, provide parental education, and enrich the lives of families within our communities.

We are working to reduce Ohio’s infant mortality rate by providing safe sleep options. The Baby Box is one of those options.  Baby Boxes are safe sleep option born out of Finnish traditions.  They (Finnish government) have been providing them for more than 75 years to expecting mothers.  The box in conjunction with education and sound prenatal care has led to a reduction in Finland’s infant mortality rate.  They have one of the lowest.  

What comes in the baby box currently?

The boxes come with a mattress, waterproof pad, and fitted sheet.  It comes with extras like wipes, diapers, coupons, and a membership to Baby Box University.  It also comes with a lid for use once the baby isn’t sleeping in the box.

How long can families use the boxes for sleeping, and what should they do as their baby gets older?

Families can use the box until baby starts to roll over independently and pulling up. This is different for every baby.  After that families should discontinue use of the box as a primary sleep space. Families will need to make sure they have a crib at that point.

Many families keep the box to be used as a keepsake, toy box, or a place for baby to play.

How did you get the idea to start Operation Peaceful Slumber?

I had twin 9 months ago and was put on bedrest pretty early.  That left me plenty of time to be on the internet.  I joined a lot of forums and read a lot of blogs and such.  I didn’t say much but read a lot. Lol! I always saw lots of moms from around the world talking about different sleep options. From moses baskets to baby boxes.  I was really interested in the baby box and thought how great it would be for me to have them for my babies.  They are a simple structure that I could leave in my living room for naps.  Anyway, I checked the price and they were $70 each, a $140 for both.  I decided that I wasn’t going to spend the money on them, but it did get me thinking.  The great thing about these community groups is that people are from everywhere and every walk of life. So there would be mothers on there talking about spending $10,000 on a baby shower and mothers talking about having nothing. I thought we are all so different, yet we are so alike.  

There is a chance that SIDS could be in any one of our future.  Scary right? My sister had lost a baby years earlier to SIDS and I was so afraid. I had heard of a mom in a shelter whose baby had passed away after co-sleeping and story after story.   Well, the baby box kept appearing and I wanted to bring them to moms in Ohio. So I wrote up a business plan that would allow me to do outreach with baby boxes as well as a for-profit to fund the outreach.

Operation Peaceful Slumber Cincinnati Dayton Ohio

How long did it take for you to get started? What hoops did you have to jump through?

It didn’t take me long to get started. My babies were born in June.  I had the business plan together by December. In January I contacted the company that manufactures the box, The Baby Box Company and talked out the details with them about pricing and all.  They informed me that they were going to be offering a program for Ohio where I could get the boxes for free, but could also do wholesale to get boxes to sale for like baby shower gifts and things. I thought ok, we can reach more families if we are getting some boxes for free.  Later, in March we found out that Ohio would make it a statewide initiative.  Every mother qualifies for a free box, no matter income level.  

Do you know anyone personally affected by infant mortality in your life that inspired you to take this path?

Yeah, I think I mentioned before that my sister had a baby pass from SIDS.  She had twins, they were born early and one of them didn’t make it.  It was sad.  I think a lot of us are touched by infant death and we don’t know what to do. I find OPS gives me hope that we are saving a life. Even one life is worth the effort.

You are the mother of twins. What was your birth experience like with the twins?

Yes, twins! Having twins was very interesting.  So I went on bedrest really early because the twins didn’t want to stay put (I had been dilated to 4 cms and having contractions for more than 8 weeks).  I went for a nonstress test at 37 weeks, all was going well until it was time for me to go home.

My blood pressure started to go up so they said they were admitting me and I would be having the babies the next day.  I was suppose to be in the OR because one baby (baby A) was head down, but the other baby (B) was transverse, but I was determined that I was having a natural childbirth.  I didn’t want an epidural, but my doctor said if I had to have an emergency c-section because baby B didn’t turn it would be the best thing.  

The next morning I agreed to let them place it, but told them I didn’t want any meds. I was so stressed with them trying to place the epidural I think I sent myself over the edge.  When they checked me before placing it I had made it to 6 cm, but all was calm and they were convinced that I had time.  Well, after placing the epidural the nurse was telling me to get some rest before they came to get me to go to the OR, she was explaining that I would feel pressure and not pain due to the test medicine that they ran through the line.  I said, "Oh ok. I felt some pressure."

The nurse looked at me like “sure”.  She said that’s great, that’s what we are looking for.  She was a new nurse to me, so I asked her name, she headed over to write her name on the board and I said OH, I felt a lot of pressure.  She said I will check you to see how you’re progressing before I leave.  She came over to check me and was shocked to see that the pressure I had felt was baby A’s head coming out.  

She called a Code to get help. Others rushed into the madness as she held baby A in her hands. The room wasn’t set up for delivery, someone was asking if the baby was still connected, she said "Yes, there are no scissors or clamps or anything." They finally got baby A disconnected, but were still having trouble finding baby B.  When her brother decided he could no longer wait, she was caught up in the action and disappeared from the monitors and couldn’t be found.  They were trying to use a portable ultrasound machine that wouldn’t work for them and so things were a lot of chaos.  

The doctor decided they could no longer wait and she would check go ahead and try to reach in and deliver baby B there. When she looked down baby B was making her way out. Head first.  It was messy and I laughed the entire time. Everyone thought I was crazy.

How did the twins sleep once they came home?

The twins slept in their crib or these portable bassinets that sit on the floor.

Baby Box Delivery Dayton Ohio

How many boxes have you given out since Ohio officially approved the distribution of them?

We have given away over 30 boxes, maybe closer to 35 now since March 10, 2017.

There is some controversy about the boxes, regarding the lack of research into their safety. Do you think that these boxes benefit families, and how?

There is opposition with everything. I say, keep looking at other countries as models. They benefit families by providing a place for babies to sleep.  As simple as that.   There are warning labels and Baby Box University.  We don’t give people enough credit.  There are all kinds of things people could be using that are unsafe.  

And truly: most of the benefit comes from education. That’s why the education piece is there.

Another reason that people oppose the boxes is that babies outgrow them by 4-6 months of age, and then families still need to get a crib. What is your answer to that response?

I say, how can you knock something that isn’t harming anyone.  It’s helping. If families are using the box, not co-sleeping, and saving lives then what can you say about that.  

Most people who oppose the box talk about the fact that they are short term. We aren’t saying they are a long term solution. We tell families they will need to get a crib or place for baby, but this can buy them time.  Why not do whatever it takes for every one of our most valuable and vulnerable.  So many families don’t qualify for any help and they are just barely making it.

We are helping people!

How are you hoping to grow the program in the coming years?

We are doing a lot of events right now to get the word out that there are boxes are available, what they are and all about OPS.  We are hoping to be able to stuff our boxes with lots of new mom essentials and information. We have had a lot of moms ask us about other services and resources, so we are working on that as well.

Do you take donations or volunteers?

Yes, we take donations and volunteers. Donations will keep us around for a long time to come.  We of course welcome fund donations and new baby items. Our volunteer opportunities will grow as we have request for more boxes.

Do you have a website or other places where people can go to find out more?
We can be found on at www.facebook.com/OperationPeacefulSlumber .  Like, follow, make donations all from our page. Our website www.operationpeacefulslumber.org is under construction, but it will be full of knowledge and information soon.