Are baby boxes safe? Cot death charity raises doubts – Suffolk and Essex midwives react

Baby Lily Pawsley in one of the Finnish-style baby boxes made by The Baby Box Company. Picture: BABY

Baby Lily Pawsley in one of the Finnish-style baby boxes made by The Baby Box Company. Picture: BABY BOX CO - Credit: Archant

Health bosses across Suffolk and north Essex have spoken out over concerns raised by a national cot death charity about the safety of baby boxes.

Launch of baby boxes at Ipswich Hospital. From left to right: midwife Helen Smith, Kayleigh Nixon, S

Launch of baby boxes at Ipswich Hospital. From left to right: midwife Helen Smith, Kayleigh Nixon, Shay Mullin, children's matron Sarah Smith, maternity support worker Claire Watson, midwife Jessica Rowland mother Rachel Woowy, baby Arthur Laye, midwife Claire Lain, midwife Nicola Heath, midwives Alison Littler and Jessie Moy, Suffolk Babies midwife Emily Ruegg. Picture: BABY BOX CO - Credit: Archant

The cardboard crates, designed to give newborn babies a safe place to sleep, have been rolled out at both Ipswich Hospital and Colchester General Hospital over the past year.

Inspired by a Finnish tradition, the boxes come with a sleeping bag, nappies, bedding and a mattress.

They are marketed as items which will help parents give their babies a safe start to life.

But now The Lullaby Trust, which raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and supports bereaved families, has warned that it is not possible for baby boxes to fully comply with British and EU safety standards.

Baby Jasper with mum Farren Webb at the launch of the Ipswich Hospital baby box programme. Picture:

Baby Jasper with mum Farren Webb at the launch of the Ipswich Hospital baby box programme. Picture: BABY BOX CO - Credit: Archant

Chief executive Francine Bates said: “We support all efforts to promote safer sleep for babies, however we do have concerns about the baby boxes being marketed as products which will reduce infant mortality and SIDS.

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

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“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.

She added: “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.”

A Colchester Baby Box, designed by The Baby Box Company. Picture: BABY BOX CO

A Colchester Baby Box, designed by The Baby Box Company. Picture: BABY BOX CO - Credit: Archant

Health chiefs at Ipswich Hospital, which works in partnership with supplier The Baby Box Company, said patient safety is the priority.

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle added: “The absolute priority for us will always be the safety of babies born at the hospital and we continue to support new parents in the best way. Safety concerns would be addressed immediately.”

Tracey Baxter is a senior midwife at Colchester General Hospital, which works with the same company.

She said: “Safety is of paramount importance to us,” she said. “If there is evidence to suggest any safety issues with the baby box or any of its contents, we would take this matter extremely seriously and review our partnership with The Baby Box Company.

“The company has given us detailed assurances, which are accepted by our staff, including our lead consultant paediatrician, that the boxes and the mattresses meet all of the relevant British and EU safety standards.

“We have issued approximately 2,000 boxes since launching the baby box initiative in October last year and during that time not a single safety concern has been raised with us.

“In fact, they have proved to be extremely popular with parents, and The Baby Box Company, which was set up to improve child safety, tells us it has not received any complaints from parents anywhere in the UK.

She added: “Our trust serves some areas of high deprivation where some parents cannot afford a crib or a moses basket.

“However, a baby box, which is made from a very thick cardboard and comes with a firm foam mattress, waterproof mattress cover and a cotton sheet, provides a suitable alternative and is a much safer option than co-sleeping which is a recognised risk.

“The most important aspect of the baby box initiative is not the box itself but the comprehensive antenatal educational programme provided to families that includes information on many subjects, including SIDS and what steps can be taken to minimise the risk.”

The Baby Box Company’s chief executive Jennifer Clary said that child safety is the reason the company exists.

Baby boxes have been used in Finland for 80 years,” she said.

“Since their introduction, Finland has seen a dramatic reduction in infant mortality rates.

“What the success of Finland’s positive results actually demonstrates is the significance of parenting education, engaging prenatal intervention and accessible community supports.

“Every mother in Finland must visit a healthcare professional by her second trimester to receive a check-up and vital education before being eligible to claim the free baby box.

She added: “Our programme is designed to pay homage to the Finnish model by providing safe-sleep baby boxes universally to expecting and new parents in communities where the local healthcare experts collaborate to develop and implement an education programme on Baby Box University.

“Baby Box University is at the heart of our operations because this secure platform enables our team and local healthcare partners to objectively monitor the efficacy of our collective contributions and alter community program designs as needed to have maximum impact on public wellness outcomes.

“Our baby boxes meet or exceed all applicable safety regulations in the territories where our company operates. This includes full compliance with the EU/UK standard for cribs and cradles.”

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