Families need more support
Today, basic newborn supplies like diapers can cost an average of $1,000 a year for each diapered child in a home In addition, nearly 1 in 8 women – regardless of age, income, or race – will suffer from some form of postpartum anxiety or depression, a number that is on the rise for women in America. Further, mental health conditions now comprise 23% of pregnancy-related deaths – more than any other single category.
In an effort to alleviate some of these stressors on new families, governments in at least 91 other countries and municipalities offer new families a “Baby Box” upon the birth of a child. In addition to offering much-needed physical goods, these baby boxes are designed to offer critical postpartum care information and to promote increased interactions between parents and their healthcare providers.
“This whole kit is amazing, and I love that it’s been started. The US has been behind other countries in supporting parents after birth so I’m glad to see something like this. Please keep it up and spread it further. Our parents need this support.”
– New Mom, Digital Survey Feedback
The Newborn Supply Kit
The Biden-Harris Administration is fighting to give all children an equal start in life. This includes a commitment to improving the experience of having a baby. Given the strong evidence of positive impact that baby box programs have on enhancing maternal and infant health, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a partnership with Baby2Baby, a non-profit 501c3 organization, to create and pilot a Newborn Supply Kit program in three states selected based on maternal health vulnerability and need. We have implemented the program universally within targeted areas in each of the three states– meaning that every mother served by one of our pilot partners will receive a Kit.
In addition to offering items for babies like one month’s supply of diapers and wipes, the Newborn Supply Kit also offers supplies for new parents, such as witch hazel pads and nipple cream, to help aid in the physical recovery from childbirth. The Kit also includes critical information on topics like breastfeeding and safe sleep, information on how to reach HHS’s new Maternal Health Hotline (1-833-TLC-MAMA or 1-833-852-6262), and a link to a new website for parents, www.hhs.gov/newbaby, which gives new parents access to additional educational, health, and benefits information.
Launching the pilot
In this pilot phase, which will run through early 2024, the Newborn Supply Kit team is distributing 3,000 Kits through partnerships with hospitals and community-based organizations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. These states were selected due to their high levels of maternal mortality, infant mortality, post-partum depression, and high social vulnerability index scores. The team is also conducting an evaluation to determine the effects of the Kit on maternal mental health, financial stress, and trust in government. We are already gaining insight into whether the educational information provided in the Kit was useful in navigating and applying for other government benefits programs, such as housing, food, cash, childcare, or other assistance, for those who may be eligible. Our team hopes to build on these initial findings to reach historically harder-to-reach populations and decrease the enrollment gap in government benefits programs for those who are eligible but not enrolled.
Our initial results show promising effects of the Kits on the health and well-being of new parents. Here are a few select findings to date:
Recipients are satisfied with the Kit and would recommend it for others. Nearly all (97%) of survey respondents, reported being “extremely satisfied” or “satisfied” with their Newborn Supply Kit. Similarly, 98% of respondents reported that they would recommend that other new parents receive a Newborn Supply Kit. Among the data collected to date, this response was even stronger among Spanish-speaking recipients, with 100% of participants recommending the Kit.
“I think this is an incredible and life changing kit for so many families in a state where many people are struggling or worried about having the resources to care for their baby.”
– New Mom, Digital Survey Feedback
Participants self-report that the Kit improves maternal mental health outcomes. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that receiving their Newborn Supply Kit helped to make them feel less anxious or worried. This trend was especially high for Spanish speakers, among whom over three-quarters (78%) said that they felt less anxiety or worry after receiving a Kit.
With a universal distribution approach, we’re hitting our target populations. Among those hospital-based survey participants who opted to answer demographic information, one-third reported household income less than $20,000 per year and the majority of Kit recipients make less than $50,000 per year. Of the respondents, 27% of respondents were White, 31% are Hispanic, 28% are Black or African American, 5% are American Indian or Alaskan Native, 3% are Asian/Pacific Islander, and the remaining 5% of participants reporting selected “other.”
Receiving physical goods is decreasing financial stress for recipients. Again, nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the Newborn Supply Kit helped them to feel less stressed about money. This trend was also particularly strong among Spanish-speaking respondents, with 73% answering similarly. To measure declines in financial stress, the survey also asks if the Newborn Supply Kit saved families money on things they would have otherwise had to purchase. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with this statement and nearly all (95%) of the Spanish speaking participants reported positive agreement on this measure as well.
“The Newborn Supply Kit takes a LOT of stress away, not just a little bit. It takes a ton of stress off me, and I don’t have to deal with the hassle of going from one organization to another.”
– New Mom, Louisiana Focus Group Feedback
Self-reported trust in government is increasing because of the Newborn Supply Kit program. We know from public polling that trust in government has declined following the pandemic and that it is at its lowest levels to date in decades (e.g., 20% of respondents to a national survey indicated that they trust the government in Washington to do what is right). After asking Kit recipients if they have heard of HHS, our survey asked, “How much do you trust the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the health and well-being of children and new parents after the birth of a child?” The survey prompts respondents to think about this before and after they received their Kit. Answering for “before” they received their Kit, respondents self-report a 29% positive rating in HHS. However, trust scores after they receive their Kit jumped to a 64% positive rating, more than doubling participant self-reported ratings of trust in government. Much of this change is driven by both decreasing the number of negative trust perceptions of HHS and from moving individuals from a neutral trust score to a positive trust score.
“Great allocation of resources…Louisiana is the last state to receive anything normally… [This kit helps] to gain trust of moms and families….”
– Louisiana Partner
The resources and information included in the Kit are increasing awareness of – and self-reported enrollment in – federal government benefits programs, especially among Spanish-speaking participants. The survey asked recipients to self-report if they applied for government benefit programs (e.g. Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, TANF) because of the information they received in their Newborn Supply Kit. One quarter (25%) of respondents noted that they had applied for additional programs, demonstrating that this initiative is one way to continue to close the enrollment gap in federal benefits programs. This trend was also especially strong among Spanish-speaking respondents with nearly two-thirds (63%) reporting applying to programs that they may be eligible to receive.
These early results suggest that programs like the Newborn Supply Kit can have a positive impact on the health and financial stress of new parents – and increase trust in government – at a critical and life-changing time as they welcome a new child into the world. The Newborn Supply Kit team plans to release a full public report on the findings from the program once all Kits have been distributed and the analysis is complete, in 2024. The final report will provide updated data on the results reported here.
Improvements in 2024
In the immediate future, the Newborn Supply Kit program plans to continue into 2024 in select, targeted geographic locations. The team is using the findings from the pilot initiative to modify Kit contents (including enhancing or adding new educational or government benefits information), continuing (and potentially enhancing the rigor of) the evaluation to demonstrate causal impacts of receiving the Kit on the outcome measures of interest, and potentially testing elements like delivery timing in an effort to have the greatest impact for new families.
If you have questions or want to learn more about the Newborn Supply Kit program, please reach out to email@example.com.