Cot death charity raises concerns over baby boxes

A cot death charity has raised concerns over the use of Finnish-style baby boxes, which infants 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 cardboard box, filled with baby products and a mattress, can itself be used as a bed, and has been given to new parents by some NHS trusts.

The charity said 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,” the charity said.

The box tradition originates from Finland, where for 75 years, every pregnant woman has been given a box filled with things like nappies, clothes, bedding and a mattress.

Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world – two deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with a global rate of 32 in 1,000, according to the UN.

A box scheme will be rolled out for all newborn babies across Scotland this month. Some areas in England also give out boxes.

Speaking before the roll-out, Scottish childcare minister Mark McDonald said the box would “provide a safe space for babies to sleep near their parents, to promote bonding and early attachment”.

The charity said the box may be a better alternative than other “hazardous circumstances” – for example, when there is no cot or Moses basket.

But Francine Bates, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, said she was concerned the boxes were being marketed as products to reduce sudden infant death syndrome.

“We are not aware of any evidence, including in Finland, to support this claim,” she said.

SIDS, also known as cot death, is the sudden unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.

There were 230 sudden infant deaths in the UK in 2014, following a downward trend in the last decade. In 2001, there were 330.

The charity went on to advise that should a parent decide to use a box for sleeping, it should be used for “daytime naps only”, with a baby sleeping in a cot or a Moses basket next to their bed during the night.

It also reminds parents not to lift or carry the box around the home if a baby is in it.

“It is also not possible for baby boxes to meet all current safety standards, as nursery furniture regulations only apply to traditional cots, cribs and bassinets, not boxes made from cardboard,” Ms Bates said.

“If parents choose to use the box to sleep their baby, we urge them to read and follow our advice, approved by our scientific and paediatric advisers.”

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