Concerns raised over the safety of so-called ‘baby boxes’ which are used for newborns to sleep in.
The concept originates from Finland, where new parents are given a cardboard box, which can be used as a bed, filled with baby products and a mattress.
The tradition, which has been taken up by a number of NHS organisations and was recently introduced in Scotland, has been cited as helping reduce the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – known as cot death.
But now The Lullaby Trust, which works to reduce SIDS, has said there is no evidence to support the claim the boxes reduce infant mortality, reports Daily Mail.
For some parents – who do not have an enclosed space for their baby to sleep such as a cot or Moses basket – a box may be a better alternative than a newborn sleeping in a ‘hazardous’ condition.
But the charity claimed it is not possible for baby boxes to fully comply with safety standards.
British and EU regulations for nursery furniture only exist for traditional cots, cribs and bassinets and there is currently no specific standard for the use of a cardboard box as a sleeping place for an infant.
The Lullaby Trust also raised questions over the safety of the mattresses in some boxes and has advised parents to check that they meet regulations before using them.
Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, 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.
‘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.’
The charity has urged health and social care professionals who distribute the boxes – as well as parents considering using one – ensure they comply with safety regulations.
The Lullaby Trust said that it will no longer allow its branded leaflets to be enclosed with baby boxes ‘as this suggests we endorse the product’.
In new advice, the charity also said that if a parent does decide to use a box, 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.
In Scotland, parents of all babies born after August 15 this year will be presented with the boxes despite concerns over the cost.
Included in them during the pilot scheme was a changing mat, a digital thermometer, a fleece jacket, several babygrows, a reusable nappy and liners, a baby book and an organic sponge. Cot sheets, a mattress and a blanket were also inside the boxes to give babies ‘the best start in life’.
SIDS is the sudden unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.
Jill Green the general manager of research, advocacy and change of SIDS and Kids previously said since starting their Safe Sleeping Campaign in 1991, there has been an 80 per cent reduction in SIDS (sudden infancy death syndrome).
Ms Green said that no formal research has been done on the baby boxes.
‘What we (SIDS and Kids) believe is that parents should make the based for them when buying any baby product,’ she said.
She added that parents need to think about whether the product they want to buy meets with Australian and New Zealand standards, and if it can withstand different climates around the country.
Ms Green said: ‘For parents they need to make an informed choice and look at things economically.’
‘But with all products they need to decide is it safe for their baby and to talk to their health professionals,’ she added.
Professor Jeanine Young, a neonatal nurse and midwife who devised the Queensland Health Safe Infant Sleeping guidelines, previously said companies are making money by playing on parents’ fears over sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
“I have a real problem with this,” Prof Young said. “It is not appropriate to be telling people that the boxes help prevent SIDS because there is no evidence that this is the case.”
Prof Young said there was no evidence to show whether the low SIDS rate in Finland was due to the boxes or whether it was because mothers there had access to good antenatal care.
Jill Green, general manager of research, advocacy and change at SIDS and Kids, said the safest sleeping environment for a baby was in a cot.
“A cot is the only thing that you can trust has been tested to comply with mandatory safety standards,” Ms Green said.
The Red Nose National Scientific Advisory Group advises that the cardboard “baby boxes” being promoted around Australia as a “safe” sleeping product have a number of issues.
These include assembly of the box, mattresses that do not meet the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) voluntary standards, a potential for injuries for babies left in boxes too long who pull themselves to standing and topple out, and most importantly an absence of education that should accompany the product and its contents.
The National Scientific Advisory Group advises parents, when choosing a sleeping product for baby, to be aware of the following points in relation to “baby boxes”.
- Baby box products that are made from cardboard may not be suitable for all Australian climates. Such factors as humidity and dampness may make the box soft and likely to become less rigid and maybe even break when carried.
- Anything that makes it hard to see the baby in a safe sleeping product (e.g. high box sides) should be avoided.
- Products that sit on the floor may increase the risk of pets sleeping in them or the danger of being tripped over.
- The baby box supplier should provide evidence that the mattress used meets the voluntary standard for cot mattresses.
- Babies who can sit up and pull themselves to standing should not be left in baby box unobserved
While all cots and portable cots sold in Australia must meet ACCC mandatory safety standards, there is no such standard for “baby boxes”
1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side
2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after
4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day
5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first six to twelve months
6. Breastfeed baby
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