Baltimore startup sells boxes for babies to sleep in

P.A.C. promotes safe sleep practices
Posted at 6:04 PM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-11 20:38:12-04

Shantell Roberts does what all entrepreneurs do, they see a need for something then come up with a solution. But for Roberts it's personal.

"I've been in maternal and child health advocacy for at least the last 6 years after the death of my daughter because I never wanted another family to go through that traumatic experience," said Roberts, the founder & CEO of Touching Young Lives, Inc.

Roberts lost her daughter to MRSA pneumonia when she was just a baby. Roberts turned her grief into action.

"Between 2009 and 2015, there were 106 sleep-related infant deaths and when I was able to identify that in 2011, my daughter was one of those babies and I was one of those parents at 24, that broke me and I wanted to fix it for someone else," Roberts said.

In her day job, she educates families about safe sleep through the B'more for Healthy Babies campaign. And in her spare time, she participated in a program through the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab where she developed a mechanism for babies to sleep safely. Her idea helped her win $25,000 in seed money to launch her start-up the Portable Alternative Crib or P.A.C., safe sleep in its simplest form.

"It's a simple but certified box. It has padding at the bottom and it serves as the baby's first sleeping space," Roberts said.

It can be easily transported and fits into tight spaces, which is a must have for families who don't have the money or space for a crib.

"When I'm unable to get to a family or if the pack n' play doesn't fit, I recommend them using a dresser drawer or a laundry basket," said Roberts.

Then she heard about the baby box, an idea that originated in Finland back in the 1930's, and she made it her own. She even fills the box with items for baby and mom such as diapers, wipes, mouthwash, health kits, and more.

The idea for the mechanism may not be revolutionary, but in Baltimore City there's a real need for it.

"The number of babies dying in their sleep in 2009 was 27. In 2015, it was an all time low at 13," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen at a safe sleep news conference in April.

So far this year, six babies have died in their sleep. It's a devastating statistic for officials and Roberts who sees those numbers and thinks of her baby girl.

"Even in losing her, I know that through this platform I've saved so many other babies," said Roberts.

The Portable Alternative Crib sells for $150. For every box sold, another one is donated to a local family in need. If you'd like to purchase one, click here.

Robert's goal is to sell 100 P.A.C.'s, so she can give away 100. So far, she's sold 35 and her company just launched last month.

It's also important to remember the ABC's of safe sleep, which stand for alone, on their back, in a crib, no co-sleeping, and don't smoke.