The inside of a ‘Baby Box’ given to families of new babies in Kennebunkport is shown. The initiative is sponsored by the Kennebunkport Health Council and all Kennebunkport families with new babies born receive a free safe-sleep bassinet and other goods and resources to help in their period of transition. COURTESY PHOTO/Bridget Broydrick

KENNEBUNKPORT — It’s said that to fully understand a baby, one must first be a mother and that’s not an easy task.

Knowing that fact, help is on the way for families with new babies in Kennebunkport. Starting this year, all families with new babies born in Kennebunkport will receive a free safe-sleep bassinet and other goods and resources to help in their period of transition. The new “Baby Box” program is sponsored by the Kennebunkport Health Council and is off to a great start, organizers say.

Baby Box Program Chairperson Bridget Broydrick pitched the idea after giving birth to her own daughter, and attending a meeting on declining enrollment at Consolidated School in Kennebunkport.

She said that baby boxes originated in Finland during the 1940s to help combat infant mortality rates stemming from unsafe sleep practices there.

“In more recent years, parts of the United States have adopted baby box programs as incentive for prenatal care and education,” Broydrick said. “The Kennebunkport Health Council’s program is the first of its kind in the state of Maine.”

According to Broydrick, each baby box given to families includes product samples, a board book to encourage early reading, a onesie, a handmade hat, and local gift cards for groceries and takeout food.

The Health Council is also inviting local business owners to donate pamphlets and coupons for inclusion in the boxes, she said.

“My husband and I are very aware of our own privilege living in Kennebunkport,” Broydrick says. “But the reality is, with rising home values, it can be a financially challenging place to choose to raise a family. Our Baby Box Program is a way to connect with young families and let them know they are a valued part of our community and its future.”

Representatives of the Health Council thinks the baby boxes are a great way to educate the community on services available through the local Public Health Department.

“The Baby Box Program will bring resources to new parents and allow the town nurses to have a connection with the new family,” says Alison Kenneway, Kennebunkport director of Public Health. “It will give them someone to reach out to if questions come up. We will be able to help them or point them in the right direction, and hopefully this connection will ease any anxiety.”

Broydrick said that since the program began last month, it’s been a hit.

“The response has been wonderful. Because we started the program quietly, moms have been surprised, but grateful,” she said. “Some have even mentioned that they had heard of baby box programs in other areas and were excited that Kennebunkport adopted one. We weren’t sure what to expect for numbers going in as Kennebunkport birth rates have been fairly low in recent years with 22 babies in 2016, but only seven born in 2014. So far 2019 has brought a bit of a boom, and we’ve already delivered four baby boxes, and connected four new families with our Public Health Department.”

The Kennebunkport Health Council is a volunteer organization that works with the town’s Public Health Department to implement programming to support the health and well-being of town residents.

The Baby Box Program is funded entirely through donations, which can be sent to the town’s Public Health Department.

For more information about the program, send an email to [email protected]

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected] 

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