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New mums in Scotland are being offered free baby boxes to ensure every baby is given the best possible start in life.
There has been disagreement by charities and organisations as to the effectiveness that baby boxes would have on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates, following the schem's announcement last year by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
Mark McDonald, minister for childcare and early years in the Scottish Parliament, said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to give every baby born in Scotland the best possible start in life and 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.”
Two successful pilot schemes have taken place in Scotland and parents of children born from 14 August 2017 are entitled to a free box.
The boxes contain essential items such as clothes, books and blankets and also include a mattress which can be used for babies to sleep in as an alternative to a crib.
But the idea hasn’t had a warm reception everywhere. In particular, cot death charity The Lullaby Trust has voiced concerns about the idea of boxes as a substitute for a crib, which is recommends should be used in the parents’ room in the few months. According to a statement on the charity website, the charity says: “We are concerned about claims that the cardboard boxes, inspired by those distributed by the Government in Finland are being promoted as a product parents can use to help reduce the risk of (SIDS).
“We acknowledge that for some parents, who do not have an enclosed space for their baby to sleep such as a cot or Moses basket, a box may be a better alternative than co-sleeping with a baby in hazardous circumstances, such as on a sofa.
“However, based on the evidence currently available, we do not believe it is factually correct to directly link the use of a baby box with a reduction in infant mortality or SIDS.”
In response to such comments, The Scottish Government has given assurances that all of its baby boxes meet the highest possible UK safety standards for sleeping. Leaflets providing advice on SIDS prevention are contained within the box, and there are also guidelines printed on the lid.
The original box scheme in Finland that was brought into effect in 1938 was conceived of before the concept of SIDS or cot deaths, and was as much an egalitarian idea as one aimed at reducing infant mortality rates in the country, although when the scheme started in Finland in 1938 there were 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births compared to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015.
Of course, not all these figures can be attributed to the box scheme but in Finland baby boxes have proved very popular and only time will tell if the same happens in Scotland.