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Trust trials ‘baby box’ scheme to reduce infant death


A London hospital has this week become the first in the UK to trial a new “baby box” scheme that it believes has the potential to prevent infant deaths.

The Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has started giving new mothers a free Finnish-style baby box.

“These boxes have been proven to help reduce the infant mortality rate in Finland”

Karen Joash

The boxes contain a foam mattress with waterproof cover, a cotton sheet and education materials with advice on how to reduce the risk of infant mortality, improve parental bonding and support the transition to parenthood.

In Finland, the practice of giving new mothers baby boxes has been credited with reducing the number of infant deaths. The boxes are also traditionally used as the baby’s bed for up to the first eight months of their life.

It is thought that the size of the box prevents babies from rolling onto their stomach, behaviour linked to sudden infant death syndrome.

As part of the trial, 800 boxes will be distributed to new mothers on a first come first served basis and the babies will be monitored by the trust until they are eight months old.

There are 6,000 births per year at the hospital, so it is thought that the trial will last around seven weeks. However, Nursing Times understand that early reports indicate the trial may be extended because the boxes have been so well received by staff and patients.

The UK has a higher infant mortality rate than many other European countries, including Germany and Italy. In 2015 the probability that a child would die before its first birthday was 3.5 per 1,000 live births in the UK, but just 1.9 per 1,000 in Finland.

Dr Karen Joash, a consultant obstetrician who is leading the trial at Imperial, said: “For too many years the UK has fallen behind its European counterparts when it comes to reducing infant mortality.

“These boxes have been proven to help reduce the infant mortality rate in Finland and we hope that these results could be replicated in the UK,” she said.

“The Finnish style baby boxes we know have helped to tackle poverty”

RCM spokeswoman

A spokeswoman from the Royal College of Midwives said any commitment that would give babies born in Britain the best possible start in life was welcome.

She added: “The Finnish style baby boxes we know have helped to tackle poverty and improve child mortality rates in areas and countries where the baby-box scheme has been rolled out.

However, she reiterated the RCM’s position that more midwives were needed to support women throughout their pregnancy and beyond, in order to give babies the best possible start in life.

“A shortage of 2,600 midwives in England means women are missing out on vital time with their midwife where important information and support is given regarding smoking, nutrition and breastfeeding,” she added.

What’s in the baby box:

  • certified newborn mattress
  • waterproof cover
  • 100% cotton sheet
  • organic wash and burp cloth
  • Baby Box University membership card
  • nappies
  • onesie
  • socks
  • hats
  • organic wooden teether
  • baby wipes
  • axillary thermometer
  • organic baby bodywash and shampoo
  • Vroom tips for baby brain development

Readers' comments (2)

  • How awesome that we are seeing the introduction of these boxes. There may be lots of women who we perceive as not needing them, but for homeless mothers, asylum seekers, those in hostels, and so many others, they will be a literal lifeline for the babies.

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  • I think this is fantastic, I hope this happens in Northern Ireland. I really hope it can reduce the number of SIDS.

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