Island Health is expanding its Baby Bed program to all new families in central and north Vancouver Island to promote safe sleep for babies and strong connections between families and caregivers.

This program expansion is made possible through the support of Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, which provided $350,000 over three years as the initiative’s sole funder.

The Baby Bed program provides an infant bed made of heavy cardboard, a mattress, sheets and “onesie” sleepwear. Baby beds are a safe place for babies to sleep – which is vital, given that sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of preventable death in healthy infants. Risk factors include babies lying on their side or stomach, bed-sharing in the presence of additional risk factors such as parental smoking, drug or alcohol use, sleeping in a car seat, swaddling, sleeping on a soft surface and sleeping with blankets or pillows.

“I am excited that Island Health is expanding the Baby Bed program to more regions on Vancouver Island, thanks to the support of Children’s Health Foundation,” says Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This program will bring support to more parents and families to help ensure that babies stay safe when sleeping and enjoy a healthy infancy.”

The Baby Bed program first launched in 2015 in the Cowichan Valley, Port Alberni, Comox, Campbell River and Mount Waddington regions to families in need of a safe sleeping environment for their infant. About 3,000 families in central and northern Vancouver Island will benefit from the expanded program. To receive baby beds, mothers should be at least seven months pregnant or babies should be two months old or younger.

“Baby beds are a simple yet excellent way to support healthy sleep for babies, and I’m thrilled that this program is expanding to families throughout central and northern Vancouver Island,” says Dr. Charmaine Enns, Medical Health Officer at Island Health. “We greatly appreciate the support of Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island in this effort.”

Baby beds meet B.C.’s safe sleep guidelines and Canadian regulations for cribs, cradles and bassinets. The baby bed concept was first introduced more than 80 years ago in Finland, which now has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

“We are so happy to see Island Health’s Baby Bed program become more widely available across the Island,” says Veronica Carroll, CEO of Children’s Health Foundation. “We hear time and time again how important these packages are for new moms, which give them the tools and knowledge to help their babies thrive. We are very grateful to our donors who make the Foundation’s financial commitment to this much-needed project possible.”

Families in the central and north Island can also register for a baby bed by visiting www.islandhealth.ca/babybed.

“Congratulations to Island Health for expanding the Baby Bed program to more communities on Vancouver Island. Many more parents will now be relieved to know that their babies will be safer while they sleep. I encourage new parents in the central and north Island to benefit from this program,” says Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and MLA for North Island.

Community organizations and businesses are also invited to donate items that can be included with the baby beds as a way to celebrate and support new families. Preferred items include diapers, wipes, blankets, knitted hats, baby books, and more. Organizations interested in making baby bed donations can contact their local public health unit.

Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island relies on donations to make funding commitments. Individuals and organizations looking to make a financial contribution can contact the Foundation directly.