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Free 'Baby Box' to be given to all new mothers in Wexford Hospital

Wexford becomes only the second hospital in the country to provide the boxes for newborns.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

WEXFORD HOSPITAL IS set to become only the second hospital in Ireland to offer an initiative that is designed to give all babies an equal start in life.

The “Baby Box” initiative is launching today, which will see thousands of newborns benefit from access to the box that acts as a bed, and provides a range of supplies to support the parents of newborns from clothes and nappies to bedding and small toys.

The initiative started in the 1930s in Finland, where expectant mothers are given a box, or “starter kit”, full of clothes, sheets and toys.

Stacked inside each box is a range of essentials, including bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products, nappies and bedding. This provision is available for all expectant mothers in the country.

The initiative in Wexford Hospital will follow a similar pattern.

Although it may have been in place in the Scandinavian country for quite some time, other countries are now beginning to trial their own version of the Baby Box, including Ireland.

Last year, the first pilot of the Baby Box scheme in Ireland was rolled out in University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

When the Limerick version was launched, Dr Mendinaro Imcha, Consultant Gynaecologist/Obstetrician, UMHL, said the programme “is a proactive approach to improving the health and safety of the newborn child and parents”.

“We are combining tradition with current technology and supporting the newborn child’s family with online educational material covering a broad range of essential topics on ante and postnatal care,” he added.

The Scottish government also recently announced that every newborn in the country would be given a box of essential items, “based on the Finnish model”.

Infant mortality

The boxes may have a more practical application than simply providing a lot of essentials for newborn babies, as the practice of offering what amounts to a cot has been identified as a contributory factor in Finland’s low infant mortality rate.

According to figures from the World Bank, for every 1,000 babies born in Finland, two children die before the age of five. It has the lowest infant mortality rate in the EU.

In contrast, just under four babies per 1,000 die before the age of five in Ireland.

When the Baby Boxes were introduced, nearly 90 babies per 1,000 children died before the age of 5.

This initiative, along with the introduction of a national health insurance system and a centralised hospital network in the 1960s, is credited with contributing to this sharp fall in infant mortality rates.

The actual box itself, when used as a cot for the baby, can be slept in for the first six months. It is believed that the small size of the box prevents babies from rolling onto their bellies, which experts think can contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (Sids), or cot death.

Mothers at Wexford hospital will also be given access to the Baby Box University, an online learning portal that teaches parents all about breastfeeding, paediatric first aid, nutrition and maternal mental health.

This resource uses online video tutorials, and is available in 17 different languages.

When launching the Scottish version, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It’s a simple idea with a proven record in tackling deprivation, improving health and supporting parents, and I’m proud and excited that the pilot is now underway”.

Baby Boxes Begin 4a (1 of 1) Source: Scottish government

Read: Free ‘baby boxes’ to be given to new mothers at Limerick hospital

Read: How ‘maternity box’ gift helped lower infant mortality rates in Finland>

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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