The Royal College of Midwives has announced that it supports the universal provision of baby boxes in the UK.
In a position statement, published today, the RCM said it believed that providing baby boxes where the baby has their own sleep space was likely to reduce the risks associated with unsafe co-sleeping.
“A baby box is a positive gift which signals that every baby is important and welcomed”
At present, baby boxes are given to all new babies in Scotland, as previously reported in Nursing Times. Meanwhile, in England some trusts have introduced pilot schemes or full baby box schemes over the last two years. Wales and Northern Ireland do not have any baby box schemes.
In coming to its conclusion, the college highlighted research that had identified a number of key risk factors for cot death or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
For example, it noted that risk factors included a baby lying prone rather than on his or her back and sharing a sleeping surface with a parent who smokes or has been drinking alcohol or taken drugs.
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Other factors cited were babies sleeping on soft or unsafe surfaces, such as a sofa, and being put down to sleep in a situation where they may become entangled in bedding or their heads may become covered by bedding, bumpers or toys.
These risk factors tend to be higher in more deprived or isolated communities and there is a high proportion of SUDI in homes with high levels of deprivation, noted the college.
It said that in these environments a baby boxes could be especially beneficial in providing safe sleep spaces for the baby.
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However, the RCM acknowledged that there was limited evidence around baby boxes reducing deaths from SUDI.
It also stressed that baby boxes must be safe, of high quality and the box and mattress should meet at least the minimum UK safety standards.
Decisions about the contents of baby boxes should be made in discussion with suitably qualified health professionals, and experts on SUDI and child safety and parents, it added.
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Gill Walton, RCM chief executive and general secretary, said: “A baby box is a positive gift which signals that every baby is important and welcomed.
“Providing them will help many families whatever their background, and provide a more equal start to life for the baby,” said Ms Walton.
“The Scottish baby box contains a number of very useful baby items that can support the health and wellbeing of new babies including an electronic thermometer, a baby carrying sling, a bath thermometer and a range of clothing,” she said.
She added: “Most importantly by enabling parents to give their babies a safe sleeping space, baby boxes may reduce unsafe co-sleeping or babies sleeping in an inappropriate place such as a sofa.”