Researchers hope Finnish Baby Boxes will help Alberta kids catch up
Lindsey Cybulskie is still adjusting to life as a new mom. Her daughter, Carter was born just two months ago.
“I had about 13 nephews and nieces before I got pregnant but I still knew that I knew nothing, so I was terrified!”
Luckily, Cybulskie was among the very first Alberta new moms to receive a little extra help as part of the Welcome to Parenthood – Alberta Study.
“We know in Alberta, from research that was done with children when they reach kindergarten, that a lot of kids aren’t reaching their developmental milestones,” said Karen Benzies, a University of Calgary professor and the study’s principal investigator.
“If we help mothers and fathers learn how to create an optimal environment for babies this can actually help children achieve their developmental milestones in a better way.”
During the study, 1,500 Alberta families will receive baby kits inspired by the baby boxes Finland began distributing to new parents in the 1930’s. The kits contain things like diapers, a baby thermometer, a sleep sack and a onesie along with resources designed to help new Moms and Dads navigate their new roles.
“The box itself also turns into a bassinet. It has a little mattress with a waterproof cover on it that can be washed and changed as needed,” said Sheila Hemminger, the Airdrie site coordinator for the project.
Along with the kits, parents are also matched with someone that can offer additional support.
“We’ve asked the families to provide a mentor from their own social network and we train that mentor using the same information that the parents get around early brain development,” Benzies said.
Alberta Human Services is funding the study which will track families from just before babies are born to the time they turn six months old. Researchers hope to finish data collection by the end of 2016.
“We will know if this is a success if we’re seeing reductions in the amount of children who aren’t meeting their developmental milestones – and decreased numbers of mothers with post partum depressive symptoms.”
To be eligible to participate in the study, first time expectant parents must be at least 18 years old and live near one of 11 participating Parent Link Centres. Participating centres include:
- Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society (Edmonton)
- Camrose Family Resource Centre
- Community Links (Airdrie)
- Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre
- Jasper Place Child & Family Resource Centre (Edmonton)
- Midwest Family Connections (Lloydminster)
- Family Futures Resource Network (Edmonton)
- Mountain View Parent Link (Didsbury)
- Norwood Child & Family Resource Centre (Edmonton)
- Parkland County Parent Link Centre (Stony Plain)
- The HUB Family Resource Centre (Fort McMurray)
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