Bridget Broydrick, chairwoman of the Baby Box Program, and Kennebunkport Director of Public Health Alison Kenneway hold one of their baby boxes, care packages for new parents in town. Credit: Jennifer Bryant | York County Coast Star

The Kennebunkport Health Council is making a connection with new families, and offering assistance as they transition to life with a new baby.

The Health Council in January launched a new Baby Box Program, providing families with new babies born in Kennebunkport with a free box — that itself is a safe-sleep bassinet — filled with goods and resources, including product samples, a board book to encourage early reading, a onesie, a handmade hat, and local gift cards for groceries and takeout food.

Boxes have already been given out to families of four baby girls, said Alison Kenneway, Kennebunkport’s Director of Public Health, and “I think it’s going to grow.”

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“My husband and I are very aware of our own privilege living in Kennebunkport,” said Bridget Broydrick, Baby Box Program Chairperson who pitched the idea after giving birth to her own daughter, and attending a meeting on declining enrollment at Kennebunkport Consolidated School. “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.”

Baby Boxes originated in Finland during the 1940s to help combat infant mortality rates stemming from unsafe sleep practices.

In more recent years, parts of the United States have adopted Baby Box programs as incentive for prenatal care and education. The program is believed to be the first of is kind in the state of Maine.

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The Health Council also hopes the Baby Boxes will educate the community on services available through the Public Health Department. The Kennebunkport Health Council, a volunteer organization, works with the Public Health Department to implement programming to support the health and well-being of town residents.

The Baby Box program is sponsored by the Kennebunkport Health Council and is funded entirely through donations, which can be sent to the Public Health Department.

“The Baby Box Program will bring resources to new parents and allow town nurses to have a connection with the new family,” Kenneway said. “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.

“It gets us to reach the new moms and dads and they get to know that we are a resource for them.”

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The Public Health Department sees 1,800 visits per year, Kenneway said, helping residents with health and social service needs. The department organizes blood drives, offers skilled nursing care at home and in the health office, and provides a variety of other resources.

The Health Council invites local business owners to donate pamphlets and coupons for inclusion in the boxes. The Public Health Department can be reached at 207-967-4401.