June 01, 2020
The Philadelphia Health Department has doubled the number of free pack 'n' play cribs it typically distributes to new mothers – despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city's pack 'n' play program typically distributes between 500 to 700 cribs each year, according to Dr. Stacey Kallem, director of the Maternal, Child and Family Health division. Expectants mothers attend a class on sleep safety for their baby and then take home a free pack 'n' play.
With the stay-at-home order in place during the public health crisis, this in-person model has not been possible.
Instead, Indego bike share has used its vans – which normally transport bicycles – for contactless crib deliveries to families in need. Expectant mothers can fill out a form online and watch an educational video on infant sleep safety. Someone from Indego will then contact them to schedule a contactless delivery.
The program aims to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the unexplained death of babies under the age of one, by encouraging safe sleep practices. Most SIDS deaths occur when a baby is between 2 and 4 months old.
Sleep-related deaths rank among the top three causes of infant mortality in both the United States and Philadelphia, Kallem said.
"Between 2011 and 2017, in Philadelphia, there were 32 sleep-related deaths in a given year – which is about the same amount of children in a kindergarten class," Kallem said.
Many of these deaths are preventable by practicing safe sleep methods.
The best way to ensure a baby's safety is to put them to sleep in a pack 'n' play or crib – not on a couch or bed, experts say. Babies should be placed on their backs. No pillows, bumpers, blankets or toys should be in the crib.
Parents also are advised to prevent their babies from overheating and ensure their heads and faces remain uncovered. Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Expectant mothers, or parents of babies under the age of one, who need a crib should call the Health Department at (267) 432-5844 or visit the Maternity Care Coalition.