All babies in Scotland due from today will be gifted a box full of essential items aimed at tackling inequality and promoting health.
The Scottish government claimed the initiative was a “strong signal” of its determination that every child, regardless of their circumstances should get the best start in life.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in helping us reach this momentous occasion”
Each “baby box” contains essential items – including clothes, books and blankets – designed to be both practical and help tackle inequality and improve health, noted the government.
The box itself also doubles up as a safe sleep space, awarded British Safety standard accreditation as a crib for domestic use, it added.
Safe sleep guidance is provided in leaflet form inside the box and safety guidelines are also printed on the box lid.
All babies due on or after 15 August will be eligible for a baby box, with registration having started in June. To inform the roll-out of the scheme in Scotland, the government carried out a three-month pilot between January and March 2017 in two local authority areas.
Mark McDonald, Scottish minister for childcare and early years, said: “The baby box is just one of the range of measures we are using to help babies and parents thrive in the crucial early months.
“We will continue to listen to feedback as the baby box reaches more families and work with parents and healthcare professionals to keep the contents under review, he said.
“The national roll-out is the result of months of hard work and engagement with healthcare professionals, stakeholders and parents and I would like to thank everyone involved in helping us reach this momentous occasion,” he added.
“It will be important that the implementation of the baby box scheme is well evaluated”
Chief medical officer for Scotland Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “Over and above the practical benefits the items within the baby box provide, the box itself also offers healthcare professionals a unique opportunity to introduce expectant parents to a wide range of health promotion information.”
Lynsay Allan, executive director of the Scottish Cot Death Trust, said: “I am encouraged by the fact that Scotland’s baby box scheme is prompting parents to think about their sleeping practices.
“Whilst the proven safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot, crib or moses basket, I also recognise that the box can be used as a safe sleep space for newborn babies, particularly where families may have no alternative and where they might otherwise unsafely share their bed or sleep on a sofa or chair with their baby,” she said.
“We look forward to working with the Scottish government to assess the impact of baby boxes on unsafe sleeping practices,” added Ms Allan.
Mary Ross-Davie, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, said the RCM had supported the initiative since it was announced early this year.
“We believe it is a positive public health initiative that has the potential, through it’s universalist approach, to make a contribution to the reduction of inequalities at the start of a baby’s life,” she said.
Registration for Scotland’s baby boxes initiative underway
“The box provides a safe sleeping space, which we hope will reduce the incidence of babies sleeping in unsafe environments, such as on sofas or for long periods in car seats or bouncy chairs,” she said.
“The contents of the box give parents information and practical resources to support safe sleeping; talk, play and read with their baby; carry their baby using a sling and recognise if their baby has a temperature and if the baby’s room and bath are the right temperature,” noted Ms Ross-Davie.
“It will be important that the implementation of the baby box scheme is well evaluated to understand parents’ and professionals’ responses to the box over time and to monitor their impact on health outcomes. This evaluation might well lead to possible changes to the contents over time,” she added.
The concept, which originates in Finland, has also been piloted or adopted in England by a number of individual trusts, as previously reported by Nursing Times.
In June last year, Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, became the first in the UK to trial baby boxes.
Since then the idea has been adopted by North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s and Children’s Services Partnership – made up of 27 NHS organisations under nine local clinical commissioning groups.
- Trust trials ‘baby box’ scheme to reduce infant death
- London hospital adopts Finnish-style baby boxes
- Baby box pilot extends to Cheshire and Merseyside
However, the increasing popularity of the boxes was questioned earlier this month by a national charity that works to reduce the rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The Lullaby Trust said it was concerned about claims that the cardboard boxes were being overly promoted as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS and questioned manufacturing standards.
But the Baby Box Company, which provides boxes for free to a number of NHS partners across England and Ireland, claimed the Lullaby Trust was misinformed.