A total of 85% of expectant parents took up the opportunity to receive a box, meaning 52,065 newborns in Scotland have benefitted, the Scottish government said. The scheme sees parents receive a box filled with clothing, a comforter toy, a play mat, books, a sling carrier, and thermometers, among other items. Parents in other parts of the UK have also received the boxes through pilot schemes.
But the boxes are not without critics – a charity that raises concerns over Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has raised safety concerns about using boxes as sleep spaces. So, would parents recommend them? HuffPost UK spoke to some who’ve had access to the scheme to find out.
The latest survey tracking feedback about the initiative showed 100% satisfaction from parents, according to the Scottish government. Children and Early Years Minister Maree Todd claimed the boxes are having a “real impact” on the lives of babies and their carers across the country, and said the scheme showed that “as a society, we value each and every child”.
The most popular items in the boxes are the room thermometer, ear thermometer and sling, according to a parent survey, while 62% of people said they either had or intended to use the box as a bed for their baby.
Scotland is the first country in the UK to give baby boxes to all newborns, and while there have been pilot schemes in different areas of England, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called for the universal provision of these boxes across the rest of the UK.
Chanise Bell-Crawford, from Birmingham, decided to pick up a box when they became available in her local area and told HuffPost UK there were a range of benefits, from having it as a useful place for her baby to sleep to the nappies and skincare products she received.
“I think it’s a great idea and should be extended if possible as it would be quite useful to those who might not be able to afford a Moses basket or cot immediately,” she said.
“For those who can afford the above, like myself, it’s also useful. I had an emergency C-section and wasn’t able to [put] my baby in a sling or wrap even when I was able to move about. The baby box was extremely helpful as I could bring it anywhere in the house, place my baby in it and still keep an eye on her while doing things.”
Bell-Crawford said her daughter, who is now 13 months old, suffered from reflux for a period of a time, adding: “Surprisingly the box was the only other place she slept for a few weeks apart from on top of my tummy.”
Carley Joseph, who has two children, one aged two-and-a-half and a 20-week-old baby, said she qualified for the trial in Birmingham but didn’t collect her box as she already had a lot of the items she would have been given. “If I was a first timer I might have made more of an effort to collect,” she told HuffPost. “As a second time mum I had everything in the box.”
Another local parent-of-two, Asher Amour, said she was not aware the boxes were available in Birmingham but would have liked to receive one, so thinks the schemes need better advertising.
One family who received the box in Scotland said the digital ear thermometer in their box turned out to be an essential item for when their baby became ill - and not something they would have thought to buy themselves.
Darren Burt and Mandy Niblo from Falkirk said their baby Harris, who is now three-months-old, got an infection and showed a high reading on the thermometer. It prompted them to call 111 and baby Harris was admitted to hospital as a result, where he made a recovery.
“It’s packed full of great quality, useful times including some that you might not think to buy yourself, that could potentially save your child’s life,” Niblo told PA.
The boxes have been available to parents in Finland since the late 1930s and have been credited with contributing to the reduction in infant death rates in the country. But different groups are divided over the association of baby boxes with a reduction in cot deaths or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
The RCM believes that giving babies their own sleep space through the use of baby boxes is likely to reduce the risks associated with unsafe co-sleeping. Risk factors that have been identified through research include a baby sleeping on soft or unsafe surfaces such as a sofa and sharing a sleeping surface with a parent who has been smoking or drinking alcohol. However, the RCM acknowledges there is limited evidence around baby boxes reducing deaths from SUDI.
The Lullaby Trust, which raises awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and provides emotional support for bereaved families, has raised concerns over the use of baby boxes following the RCM’s the call for their universal introduction.
While the trust acknowledges the aim of some baby box schemes is to reduce inequality and give all babies the same start in life, it raised the issue that there is no specific safety standard for the use of cardboard boxes as a sleeping place for an infant.