A cot death charity has raised doubts about the benefits of Finnish-style baby boxes, which newborns can sleep in.
Issuing new advice to parents, The Lullaby Trust said there was no evidence baby boxes reduced the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The baby boxes, which originated in Finland, have often been cited as a contributing factor to the country’s extremely low infant mortality rates (two deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 32 per 1,000 globally).
The cardboard box, filled with baby products and a mattress, can itself be used as a bed, and is being given to new parents by some NHS trusts.
But the charity is concerned that the boxes are being promoted as a product which could help reduce the risk of SIDS, of which they said there is no evidence.
“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 Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” the statement states.
“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 not believe it is factually correct to directly link the use of a baby box with a reduction in infant mortality or SIDS.”
The charity went on to say that its leaflets would no longer be put in the boxes.
“We will no longer allow our branded leaflets to be enclosed…as this suggests we endorse the product,” said the charity, which provides expert advice on safer baby sleep for the NHS.
Francine Bates, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, told BBC Radio 5 live Finland’s “fantastic record” was due to a variety of reasons, including lower teenage pregnancy rates.
She said: “The fact that they give a box out to every family may be a factor but we can’t say that definitively.”
The statement comes after the Scottish government announced plans to roll out a baby box scheme to “help tackle deprivation, improve health and support parents.”
Speaking of the scheme, Scotland’s childcare minister, Mark McDonald, said:
“[The box] will include materials to promote the best possible outcomes for children and the box itself will also provide a safe space for babies to sleep near their parents, to promote bonding and early attachment.”
Responding to the concerns raised by the Lullaby Trust a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland’s baby box meets British safety standards. It was awarded British Safety Standard accreditation as a crib for domestic use – we understand that it is the first non-commercial box in the world to do so.”
“The baby box will help tackle deprivation, improve health and support parents, and we are proud to introduce it in Scotland.”
Despite their concerns, the Lullaby Trust has provided some advice to parents who do plan on using one of the baby boxes. The advice, which is posted on the charity’s website, includes some of the below:-
Use your baby box for daytime naps only and sleep your baby in a cot or a Moses basket next to your bed during the night
Do not lift or carry the box around your home if your baby is in it
Do not put the lid on the box if your baby is in it
Do not place additional bedding on top of the mattress to raise your baby up to a higher level
Ensure the box is placed on a solid surface and cannot topple over
Do not use the box if it gets wet or soiled
Do not put a box on an under heated floor
Do not leave the baby in the box unattended or out of view
Do not use the box once your baby is able to roll
Ensure that you comply with any instructions relating to the maximum age and weight of the infant for which the box can be used
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