Every Baby Counts Executive Director Bradley Berzack and a Lydia House employee pose with one of the donated Sleep Safe Boxes. Photo by Emily N. Tanaka.
The Long Beach Rescue Mission’s emergency women and children’s shelter, Lydia House, is striving to assist underprivileged women with infants by teaming up with Santa Ana-based nonprofit, Every Baby Counts, to provide mothers with the tools to care for their newborn.
Every Baby Counts, a nonprofit for the health education of newborns and prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, began donating the boxes to Lydia House on Tuesday, August 15 as part of Project Sleep Safe, a newly launched program that gives mothers of infants all the basic necessities to take care of their newborns through distributing kits called Sleep Safe Boxes.
Each kit contains a variety of baby clothes and blankets, washcloths and instructions on how to give the child proper nutrients, create a safe sleeping environment for the newborn and reduce the risk of the infant dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to Every Baby Counts Executive Director Bradley Berzack. The box itself comes equipped with a small foam mattress and fitted sheet so it can be used as a safe place for the baby to sleep until the child grows out of it at around five months old.
Infant care and infant care education is essential at Lydia House, explained Case Manager Erika Magdaleno, as the shelter houses an average of five to 10 babies a year. Mothers who are unable to care for their newborns are constantly knocking on the shelter door and, although homelessness in Long Beach has dropped by 21 percent since 2015, Lydia House does not have enough beds to accommodate everyone.
Berzack poses with an employee at an OC charity. Photo courtesy of Every Baby Counts.
New Life Program Supervisor Tonya Hubbard hopes that offering mothers a Sleep Safe Box will give the women a sense of control over their baby’s well being while struggling with homelessness.
“Some of these women are sleeping on park benches and have nowhere to put their babies.” explained Hubbard. “Some of these mothers and infants are just filthy from head to toe and them just knowing that they can get clean clothes to wear and be put into safe places, I think that’s just one more step during these trying times.”
The box was inspired by the Finnish government, who has given newborn mothers similar boxes and education in the hospital after giving birth, for the past 75 years. The success of the boxes can be attributed to Finland having the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Berzack hopes to take this method and use it to help mothers who may have less access to newborn care education.
“There are similar social programs where people and parents get involved and get to enroll and get an education on safe sleeping and nutrition and all the parents walk away feeling more inspired and like people care,” said Berzack. “It’s a proven model that I’m trying to recreate.”
Project Sleep Safe was launched in August for Breastfeeding Awareness Month as Every Baby Counts’ first big project after Berzack and his father, owners of the Bambini infant wear company, created the nonprofit in 2016. So far, they have delivered about 60 kits to seven different shelter organizations in Southern California, including Long Beach Christian Ministry and His Nesting Place, a nonprofit that specializes in pregnant women and mothers in crisis.
Every Baby Counts will continue to supply the boxes indefinitely and are searching for other nonprofits that can benefit from Project Sleep Safe. Berzack and his team plan to start other projects through their nonprofit and host a walking event in Laguna Beach for SIDS Awareness month. For more information on the nonprofit, click here.
If there are any pregnant women or mothers who may benefit from the resources offered at Long Beach Rescue Mission Lydia House, you can contact them at (562) 591-1292.
Lydia House is located at 1430 Pacific Avenue.