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What is a baby box and why are some states giving them to new parents?

This week, Alabama will join two other U.S. states — Ohio and New Jersey — in launching a program that offers free baby boxes to families of newborns in the state.

Here’s what you should know about the boxes, their origin and why states are adopting the program:

What is a baby box and where did the idea come from?

The idea originates from 1930s Finland, when nearly one out of 10 infants died in their first year, according to the New York Times.

The Finnish boxes — which include bedding and nearly 50 other items — are given as an incentive for mothers to see a doctor during pregnancy; to obtain one, expecting mothers had to undergo a medical exam during the first four months.

An average of 40,000 boxes are given to Finland’s mothers-to-be every year.

Today, Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world — 2.5 for every 1,000 births, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Why are U.S. states adopting baby box programs?

The U.S. infant mortality rate — 5.8 for every 1,000 births — is more than double that of Finland.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 3,700 U.S. newborns suffered sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) in 2015.

One of the big risk factors associated with SUIDs is bed sharing.

When mothers can’t afford cribs, it’s not uncommon for bed sharing to occur.

With the high U.S. infant mortality rate and SUIDs statistics, some states are offering baby boxes to encourage postpartum safe sleep.

Which U.S. states have adopted baby boxes?

New Jersey became the first state to distribute baby boxes to prevent newborn deaths, followed by Ohio and now, Alabama.

California-based Baby Box Co. teamed up with state hospitals, child fatality organizations and other nonprofits to produce and distribute bassinet-sized boxes. According to NPR, New Jersey plans to distribute 105,000 boxes; Ohio, 140,000; Alabama, 60,000. 

What exactly is included in a U.S. baby box?

Though the details may differ across states and countries, the laminated cardboard boxes are usually well-built, mobile and come with a foam mattress and fitted sheet.

Often, the boxes will also include a onesie, diapers, wipes and breastfeeding accessories.

While the Finnish boxes were given to expecting mothers if and only if they underwent a medical exam during the first four months, the boxes in the three states are given away for free to families of newborns.

As part of the U.S. program, parents are expected to educate themselves by watching online videos about SIDs and safe sleep and test their knowledge through a short quiz.

"Through education and awareness, people can make better choices and hopefully we can see fewer children dying," Dr. Kathryn McCans, chair of New Jersey's Child Fatality and Near Fatality review board, told NPR.

Is a Safe Haven Baby Box the same as a baby box?

No. The Safe Haven Baby Box refers to a heated and padded incubator that allows new moms a safe way to give up their babies, rather than simply abandoning them.

In 2016, Indiana installed two boxes at fire stations as an extension of the state’s Safe Haven law, which offers parents complete anonymity when giving up an unwanted newborn younger than 45 days without being arrested or prosecuted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year.

Learn more about the new baby boxes at NPR.org.

Leggings on a plane: Delta weighs in on United Airlines controversy

It was the leggings policy heard ’round the world.

After United Airlines declined to allow girls who were wearing leggings to board a flight on pass travel and another passenger tweeted about it, the question of airline dress policies went viral.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: United Airlines kicks two girls off flight for wearing leggings

But some have also pointed out that airlines often have more stringent policies for employees’ friends or family who are traveling on reduced-rate buddy passes. It’s a familiar issue in Atlanta, where Delta Air Lines is the largest employer and the metro area is home to tens of thousands of airline employees.

Actress Justine Bateman, best known from the 1980s TV show “Family Ties,” is among those who pointed out the distinction on Twitter over the weekend.

>> Read more trending news

“To be fair, these guidelines for ’employee passes’ have been in place for decades. All the traveling airline employees know about them,” Bateman tweeted on Sunday.

“I had to do the same when I flew on ‘passes’ as a kid, to be fair,” she tweeted.

Delta says it does not have an “item-specific” clothing policy for employees and pass travel.

“We ask our employees and their family and friends flying on pass privileges to use their best judgment when deciding what to wear on a flight,” Delta said in a written statement.

And Delta emphasized that in a tweet on Monday.

Premature ‘Baby Bun’ is thriving, marks milestone with parents

 

It may be something that every child accomplishes, but it means even more to the parents of Kaleb Graves, also known as Baby Bun.

Arkell and Dana Graves of Virginia posted video of Kaleb sitting up on his own for 1 minute and 48 seconds on Facebook.

>> Read more trending news

Kaleb was an internet sensation even before he was born when his father’s reaction to his mother’s pregnancy news drew millions of video views on Facebook and YouTube.

After health issues with both mom and baby surfaced during the pregnancy, and with only a five percent chance of survival for the baby, Baby Bun was born at 24 weeks of gestation in October of 2015 and spent nearly his first year in the hospital.

His health and development has been improving ever since.

His parents called Baby Bun’s milestone last weekend a “blessing.”

Related: Baby born at 24 weeks celebrates first birthday

“The best is yet to come! We are thankful for his nurses, physical and occupational therapist, they’ve helped him achieve so much,” the proud parents said in a post.

 

4-year-old with brain tumor gets star treatment as honorary police officer

A 4-year-old was smiling ear to ear Saturday while he got to be an honorary Boston police officer for the day and member of their basketball team at a cancer research fundraiser in Massachusetts. 

>> On Fox25Boston.com: See more photos from Declan's day

"We won't know where we'll be a year from now, but today my son's as happy as he can be," said dad David Higgins. 

Declan Higgins, a huge BPD fan, and is being treated for a stage 3 brain tumor. He's had surgery and radiation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for the tumor. 

"It's one day at a time," David said. 

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

On Saturday, complete with a hat and mini badge, Declan was picked up from his Medfield home and escorted to West Roxbury for a day of fun and basketball. 

Boston police officers were playing in the annual A Shot For Life: Battle of the Badges to raise money and awareness for brain cancer research at the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. Declan got the chance to be part of their team as an honorary player.

"I'm honored that he's here. He's my favorite player today," said nonprofit leader Mike Slonina.

>> Read more trending news

Slonina started the nonprofit following his mother's brain cancer diagnosis in 2010. 

"It's supposed to united people through basketball," he said. 

And that it did. A large crowd of people were in West Roxbury to cheer Declan on as he arrived before the game. There were posters, cheerleaders and plenty of police officers giving the 4-year-old the basketball star treatment. 

"We open up our hearts; that's we do," said Sgt. Detective Joe Sullivan with the BPD, who helped organize the day. 

Declan walked into the gym and changed into his BPD jersey. He shot some hoops and even got into the game with the officers as they played in the Battle of the Badges. 

In support of the fundraiser, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, TD Garden and Prudential Tower were lit in red and blue Saturday night.

Baby born with 'parasitic twin' undergoes risky surgery, makes remarkable recovery

A baby girl is beginning her new life after a successful but risky surgery to remove extra body parts from what doctors call a “parasitic conjoined twin.”

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Baby Dominique was born in the Ivory Coast in Africa with four legs and two spines. According to Advocate Health Care, the extra body parts were from an undeveloped parasitic conjoined twin.

Dominique was flown to the U.S. to undergo a life-changing surgery to remove the extra body parts at Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois.

>> Read more trending news

On March 8, doctors performed the complicated surgery after weeks of preparation. Six hours later, they successfully removed the parasitic twin.

WGN-TV reports that Baby Dominique is recovering with her foster family in Chicago and will return home to her family in Africa soon.

>> Watch a video about Baby Dominique here

Woman sends thank you note to police after they arrest her daughter

It’s hard to be a parent when your child gets arrested. And not everyone takes it well.

But one mother showed gratitude to police who arrested her daughter in Florida while she was on spring break.

>> Read more trending news 

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office posted the text of a letter it received last week on its Facebook page. In the note, a mother thanks the department for arresting her 19-year-old daughter for underage drinking.

“Yesterday, my daughter was one of the thousands of spoiled spring breakers ‘living it up’ on the beach,” she wrote. “She got arrested for underage drinking. She was holding a can of beer on the beach. A stupid move that I warned her about before she left, but I’m just her mother, so ‘in one ear and out the other.’” 

She said the arrest taught her daughter a lesson, and she thanked the officers for their professionalism.

“The arrest scared the hell out of her, and I’m hoping she learned her lesson. The reason that I am sending this is that every officer that I talked to or that I could hear in the background talking to her was so nice! Firm, but nice,” the mother wrote. “For a mom hundreds of miles away, that was very reassuring. I know you all have to deal with this on a daily basis, which must be completely annoying, and I'm very sorry my daughter added to your workload yesterday. They say you always have one child that makes you go grey early and she is mine! Thank you for saving me a few more grey hairs last night.”

The post has been liked more than 3,000 times.

Babies named Romeo and Juliet born to different families at same hospital

Two star-crossed babies named Romeo and Juliet are stealing hearts after arriving unexpectedly early to different families at a South Carolina hospital.

Photos shared by Cassie Clayshulte, Coastal Carolina Hospital’s resident photographer, show the babies resting peacefully after their arrival.

>> See the photos here

According to CBS News, Morgan and Edwin Hernandez welcomed baby Romeo on Sunday. Just 18 hours later, Christina and Allan Shiffett welcomed baby Juliet.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

Clayshulte made the exciting realization. After confirming her hunch at the nurses station, she asked both parents if she could photograph little Romeo and Juliet together.

>> Read more trending news 

Clayshulte couldn’t believe her luck.

“Both parents had picked the names out early on in their pregnancies, and neither couple knew each other until they met that day,” Clayshulte told CBS News.

She said the parents were touched by the photos.

“They both cried,” Clayshulte said. “They just loved them.”

Teacher gets hilariously inappropriate sympathy cards from students after father dies

There’s nothing quite like a bunch of second-graders to make you laugh during tough times.

When an elementary school teacher's father passed away, her students wrote condolence letters to help her get through the tough time.

>> Watch the video here

>> Read more trending news

The teacher's son, Matt Hunziker, and his New York comedy group, Wolf Spirit, just had to share some of the hilarious notes she received. They shared a video to YouTube titled “Real Sympathy Cards from Second Graders.”

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

“I’m sorry for your dad who died. At least you have a mom,” wrote one student.

“I feel droopy and I love you,” wrote another student.

WATCH: Boy overjoyed when brother who lives 1,000 miles away pays surprise visit

Two brothers who live 1,000 miles apart are getting a lot of attention after their heartwarming reunion went viral.

Aaron Davis, 9, misses his older brother, Adam, 19, every day. Adam moved from their home in Columbus, Ohio, to Dallas to study psychology at Southern Methodist University.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

The two have kept in close touch despite the distance.

“He sends me different videos of him playing basketball and will ask, ‘Hey, what do I need to work on?’ and I’ll give him advice,” Adam told ABC News.

The brothers were apart for the holidays because flights were too expensive. So for spring break, Adam bought a ticket and surprised Aaron.

>> Read more trending news

“My mom picked me up from the airport, and we come home, and I stay in the garage,” he said. “My mom goes inside and tells Aaron to go to the garage to get the groceries out of the car, and when he comes out, he sees me, and he loses it.”

>> Watch the heartwarming video

Terminally ill mom dies after best friend agrees to adopt her 4 children

A mother of four whose story went viral in December has died of ALS, according to an online obituary.

Sara Hankins, 36, of Milan, Illinois, died March 13 surrounded by family and friends.

Her story went viral in December after her best friend, Missy Armstrong, 42, agreed to adopt Hankins’ four children: Alexis, 18; Cayden, 11; Micah, 9; and Amara, 8.

>> Read more trending news

“The thought of where they would go was killing her more than the ALS was,” Armstrong told People. “It consumed her everyday thoughts, because none of her family members were able to take in all four kids together.”

People reports the two met in cosmetology school in 1999 and have been friends ever since.

Armstrong is also a single mother with two children: Kairee, 14, and Alexa, 22.

“I hug Sara’s babies extra tight because she can’t hold them,” she said.

Hankins is survived by her mother, her four children, her siblings and their spouses, her grandparents, her seven nieces and nephews and “countless friends.”

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