VICTORIA – New families living in the Central and North Island now have access to free government-made baby beds, according to an announcement by Island Health Thursday.

The beds are part of a health authority program designed to promote safe sleep for babies, as sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of preventable death among healthy infants in Canada.

Each bed comes with a mattress, sheets, sturdy cardboard walls, a free baby onesie and general infant supplies. Island Health says that the beds can be used until babies are up to four or five months old, or when they begin to roll on their own.

"Baby beds are a simple yet excellent way to support healthy sleep for babies, and I'm thrilled that this program is expanding to families throughout Central and Norther Vancouver Island," said Dr. Dr. Charmaine Enns, Medical Health Officer at Island Health.

The baby bed program first launched on the island in 2015 in the Cowichan Valley, Port Alberni, Comox, Campbell River and Mount Waddington areas. The expansion will see approximately 3,000 more families outfitted with a baby bed.

Besides providing a free and mobile space for infants to sleep, Island Health says that the program allows for medical professionals to share valuable new parenting information with families.

"When families arrive to pick up their baby bed, they also meet with a public health nurse to talk about any questions or issues they may have, receive pre- and post-birth support and learn about safe sleep practices for babies," said Island Health in their news release. 

Families can pick up a free baby bed at any public health centre in the Central and North Island. The program was able to expand to these regions thanks to $350,000 of funding from the Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island. 

"I am excited that Island Health is expanding the Baby Bed program to more regions on Vancouver Island, thanks to the support of Children’s Health Foundation," said Adrian Dix, B.C.'s Minister of Health. 

"This program will bring support to more parents and families to help ensure that babies stay safe when sleeping and enjoy a healthy infancy."