Sleep expert raises concerns about Scotland's baby boxes

Do baby boxes pose a risk to children? [Photo: Getty]
Do baby boxes pose a risk to children? [Photo: Getty]

A sleep expert has raised concerns over Scotland’s baby boxes, which have been provided free to thousands of new parents for their newborns to sleep in.

Dr Peter Blair, a specialist in medical statistics at Bristol University, revealed his concerns in a detailed memo to the Scottish government in which he claimed there was no evidence that the boxes were safe or reduced cot death, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

He suggested that the risks to a baby’s health could come from the boxes’ relatively high sides, which meant parents could only see their child if they stood directly over the box.

Instead of parents using the boxes as a permanent bed for their newborn, he suggested they should only be used in unusual circumstances, for example when a baby fell asleep on a sofa and no other cot or carrier was near by.

Commenting on Dr Blair’s findings, a Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The baby box meets British safety standards and was awarded British safety standard accreditation as a crib for domestic use, the first non-commercial box in the world to do so.

“We will ensure that Scotland’s baby box complies with the new standard once it is developed. As the material issued with the baby box makes clear, the baby box — and its associated bedding — is intended to offer a safe sleeping place when used in accordance with other safe sleeping practices.”

Scotland first announced the intention to provide parents with free baby boxes back in 2016 . First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from New Year’s Day 2017, Scottish parents would be gifted the boxes.

The policy took the lead from a similar Scandinavian scheme, which sees new mums and dads being sent home from hospital with baby boxes containing useful items to help kickstart their new journey into parenthood.

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.

This isn’t the first time concerns have been raised over the boxes. Last year, a cot death charity also raised doubts about the benefits of the boxes.

Issuing new advice to parents, The Lullaby Trust said there was no evidence baby boxes reduced the rate of SIDS.

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.

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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