Baby boxes distributed without education by a known service provider are not associated with reduced infant mortality, Red Nose advises

The Red Nose National Scientific Advisory Group advises that the cardboard “baby boxes” being promoted around Australia at the moment 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.

Baby in Cot for Baby Box News Aug 2017

“Promoting these ‘products’ without education is not associated with reductions in infant mortality as some of these advertisements purport,” said the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Professor Jeanine Young, who is a member of Red Nose’s National Scientific Advisory Group.

In Finland, since 1938, parents have been provided with a government funded maternity package or “baby box”, which includes clothing, bathing products, and a box with a mattress and bedding.

Red Nose advises that the low rates of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) in Finland are not due to the “baby box” alone, but are underpinned by the increased health care mothers and babies receive through earlier engagement in antenatal care and the information provided to them for safe infant sleeping. All other Scandinavian countries also have very low rates of SUDI, despite parents not being supplied with a “baby box”.

“Cardboard baby box programs differ in important ways from the Pēpi-Pod and Wahakura Programs, which are safe sleep space programs currently available through health services in Queensland and New Zealand. These programs partner a portable infant sleep space designed specifically for families to use in shared sleep environments (including the mattress which meets the voluntary mattress standard), with safe sleep education and a family commitment to share what they have learned about safe infant sleeping. These programs are delivered in partnership with local health services to ensure that they are culturally appropriate for families, and particularly targeted for families with babies with known vulnerabilities,” said Professor Young.

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”

Red Nose has recently released an Information Statement ‘Baby Safe Sleeping Products’, which provides guidance to families on how to choose safe sleeping products for their baby. Read the Information Statement here.