- Associated Press - Thursday, February 23, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - Parents involved with Arizona’s child safety agency are being provided commercially produced boxes intended for use as portable beds as state officials attempt to prevent sleep-related deaths.

The Department of Child Safety says unsafe sleep environments claimed the lives of 74 Arizona infants in 2015 and that 90 percent of those sleep-related deaths were deemed preventable.

The Arizona program distributes a customized box produced for the agency by the Baby Box Co. The box comes with a mattress and sheet, and the agency includes a health kit, hygiene items and electric outlet covers in the giveaway.

The department late last year started giving boxes to parents after they complete training on safe sleeping practices for infants and sign a form saying they won’t smoke around the baby or share a bed with the infant, said Sue Smith, prevention administrator for the department.

The training is essential, Smith said. “These are resources … but a resource is only as good as the education.”

Smith said safe practices include having the infant sleep in the same room with parents but not in the same bed. Also, not having the baby sleep on his or her stomach reduces the risks of suffocation or choking, she said.

Parents typically put the box on the floor next to the bed, she said. “The baby’s right there in the bedroom, but not in the bed.”

Arizona officials say the idea is based on Finland’s longstanding practice of providing sleeping boxes for babies.

New Jersey in January launched a broader program. Numerous hospitals across the United States and other organizations also distribute sleeping boxes.

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