Every baby born in Scotland will now be able to come home with a ‘baby box’ that will be filled with items essential for early years, as well as being a safe sleep space.
Inspired by long-standing Finnish policy, the boxes are designed to tackle health inequality in newborns, though they have been a source of controversy as the Lullaby Trust disputed their effectiveness in preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or cot death.
READ MORE: 'Misrepresented' baby boxes ahead of Scotland launch
Finland has a notably lower rate of SIDS, though the Trust insisted that other factors in baby healthcare were also contributing to this. Box makers Baby Box Co hit back saying that the reputation of boxes as a catch-all solution to SIDS was a ‘misrepresentation’ and that healthcare providers should not conflate box provision with single-handedly reducing SIDS.
The Scottish government said they were ‘extremely proud’ to be the first UK nation rolling out the baby boxes to the wider population. They will be available for all babies born on or after 15 August.
‘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,’ said Scottish minister for childcare and early years Mark McDonald.
‘The box includes a large number of items which are not only practical but designed to help tackle inequality and improve health. It can also be used as a safe sleep space and has been awarded British safety standard accreditation as a crib for use at home.
READ MORE: Safety 'paramount' in baby box cot death concerns
‘We will continue to listen to feedback as the baby box reaches more families and work with parents and healthcare professionals to keep the contents under review.’
Evidence shows that the early years are crucial for children’s development and can be linked to outcomes much later in life, according to the Scottish government. Measures undertaken in the 0-3 years age range have the opportunity to make the biggest impact.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) welcomed the introduction of the baby boxes, though they had also urged caution. While they still preferred cots or Moses baskets for sleeping, they conceded some parents cannot afford these items and would find the boxes useful.
RCM director for Scotland Mary Ross-Davie said: ‘We believe this is a positive public health initiative that has the potential, through it's universalist approach, to make a contribution to the reduction of inequalities at the start of a baby’s life.
READ MORE: Scotland to introduce baby boxes for every baby
‘The box provides a safe sleeping space, which we hope will reduce the incidence of babies sleeping in unsafe environments, such as on sofas or for long periods in car seats or bouncy chairs.
‘It will be important that the implementation of the baby box scheme is well evaluated to understand parents’ and professionals’ responses to the box over time and to monitor their impact on health outcomes. This evaluation might well lead to possible changes to the contents over time.’