Governor Signs Simotas Baby Box Bill into Law

New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas. Photo by Eleni Sakellis, File

NEW YORK – New parents will be getting life-saving “baby boxes” now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Aravella Simotas to reduce infant mortality from asphyxiation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The new law creates a pilot program, the Newborn Health and Safe Sleep Pilot Program,run by the NY State Department of Health (DOH), which will distribute a safe, portable sleep space, literally baby boxes or other innovative means identified in a comprehensive study to be undertaken by DOH.

The legislation was passed by the Assembly on June 20 and by the Senate on June 15. It was signed into law by the governor on October 23. Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, a Democrat, crafted the legislation in collaboration with State Senator Kemp Hannon, a Republican from Nassau County.

“This is an important law that will create an in inexpensive way to support healthy parenting and save babies’ lives,” said Simotas. 

“I am enormously grateful to my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate and to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his support of this program,” Simotas added.

The baby boxes, which are designed for infants six months old or younger, will be distributed in areas of the state with the greatest infant mortality rates. They are designed according to the safe infant sleep guidelines of the Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and discourage high-risk behaviors on the part of parents that are associated with Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Each baby box has a firm mattress with a fitted sheet which are two key elements for safe sleep.

Parents will also be given educational information on the dangers of co-sleeping and the risks when blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and loose bedding are used. Many parents of newborns have no idea that these seemingly innocent items in a crib can put a sleeping baby at risk.

“We cannot ignore the reality for some new families that sleep deprivation and exhaustion, coupled with lack of money to afford a crib, can result in babies being put to sleep in risky ways,” Simotas said.