New mothers should be given baby boxes to reduce co-sleeping risks, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
Currently, baby boxes are given to all new-borns in Scotland and some NHS trusts in England have introduced the scheme – while in Wales and Northern Ireland no scheme exists.
‘A baby box is a positive gift which signals that every baby is important and welcomed. Providing them will help many families whatever their background, and provide a more equal start to life for the baby,’ said Gill Walton, chief executive of the RCM.
‘The Scottish baby box contains a number of very useful baby items that can support the health and wellbeing of new babies including an electronic thermometer, a baby carrying sling, a bath thermometer and a range of clothing.’
Baby boxes are cardboard boxes which commonly include essentials such as clothes, books and blankets and the box itself can be used as a bed.
Cot death or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) has been linked to babies lying prone rather than on their backs, sharing a bed with a parent who smokes, has been drinking or takes drugs, or sleeping on unsafe surfaces such as sofas.
Another risk for babies is to be placed in a sleeping environment where they might become tangled in bedding, or have their heads covered by bedding, bumpers or toys.
By extending the scheme, babies would be provided immediately with a place to sleep and it would particularly benefit those living in deprived areas – where there is a higher risk of SUDI – say the RCM, while they acknowledge that there is limited evidence that baby boxes reduced SUDI.
They have also recommended that decisions about what is included in the box should be discussed with health professionals, experts on SUDI and parents.