PHOTOS | Berkshire Baby Box Community Shower

 

Diapers? Check. Onesies? Check.

Baby box? Check.

About 30 expectant mothers on Thursday received free supplies in the form of baby boxes - a specially designed box for safe infant sleep - packed with essential items at the Berkshire Baby Box Community Shower.

The event, held Thursday at the Country Club of Pittsfield, was a celebration to mark the countywide launch of Berkshire Baby Box, a nonprofit initiative launched earlier this year to provide new mothers with essential items to help ease the transition to parenthood and connect new parents to local resources and guidance.

Soon, all new mothers in the Berkshires will have the same opportunity, thanks to a donation of 1,500 boxes from the global Baby Box Co., said Hinda Bodinger, a retired college counselor and founder of Berkshire Baby Box.

The boxes are filled with carefully curated items such as Halo sleep sacks (one heavier and one lighter), nail clippers, breastfeeding supplies and two books.

Linda Baxter, a retired Berkshire County midwife and active participant in Berkshire Baby Box said the boxes include only a thin mattress and fitted sheet for bedding to reduce the risk of suffocation for infants.

"This is a very, very important preventive step," she said, cautioning the mothers to put babies to sleep only on their backs.

The boxes are filled with supplies by the group, then given to local agencies such as Community Health Programs, and Fairview Hospital and Berkshire Medical Center, to distribute to the expectant moms.

Sarah Connell of Pittsfield saw the flyer for the event when she went to a different doctor after her usual office ran out of flu shots.

"[I thought] that's too good to be true," she said. Connell, who is expecting her second child in January, learned about baby boxes through reading about Finland's program.

Various nonprofits gave out the initial batch of baby boxes Bodinger and her husband purchased, including Community Health Programs and the Family Center of Northern Berkshire County.

Multiple presenters at the event spoke about the value of the community fostered from the boxes themselves and the parenting workshops and groups connected with them.

"We feel that our model is not just to give you a box," Bodinger said. "For me, it's more about welcoming every mom to the community."

Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, called the boxes a vehicle to bring the network of Berkshire County parenting resources to local families.

Workshops and other resources mothers learn about through the boxes help them handle the isolating, difficult aspects of parenting.

"The moms meet each other. [They] understand they're not alone," Bodinger said.

Adam Hinds, recently elected senator for the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district, was also on hand for the event. He praised the effort to bring a sense of community to Berkshire County parents.

Berkshire Baby Box began last January with founder Bodinger's desire to combat what she saw as damaging rhetoric this election season, especially toward immigrants.

"It's frustrating to see the world get less and less kind," she said. "This is something we felt like we could do to put a little light in the darkness."

The boxes can be used as keepsake boxes or even toy chests after babies grow out of them at about eight months old, Bodinger said.

Baby boxes for new mothers first emerged as a trend in Finland in the 1930s, provided by the government to ensure safe sleep for infants in response to the country's then-high infant mortality rate. Recently, the idea has gained traction throughout the world.

"It's a treasured rite of passage in Finland," Bodinger said, "and I hope it's going to be one in Berkshire County."

Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.