Call to roll out pioneering Wigan baby boxes scheme

The launch of the baby box initiative
The launch of the baby box initiative

A scheme to help babies sleep safely, which has been pioneered in Wigan, should be rolled out across the UK.

That is the view of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which has spoken out to support universal provision of baby boxes.

Other news: Wigan businesses' fury at rubbish dumped around offices

They have been available to parents in Wigan since last year and provide the baby with a safe space to sleep.

While all parents receive the boxes in Scotland, they are only provided in certain parts of England and not at all in Wales and Northern Ireland.

RCM chief executive Gill Walton said: “A baby box is a positive gift which signals that every baby is important and welcomed. Providing them will help many families whatever their background and provide a more equal start to life for the baby.

“The Scottish baby box contains a number of very useful baby items that can support the health and wellbeing of new babies including an electronic thermometer, a baby carrying sling, a bath thermometer and a range of clothing.”

The baby boxes were introduced for Wigan mums in a bid to tackle the North West’s high rates of infant mortality.

They allow babies to sleep near their parents without the dangers of sharing a bed.

While there is conflicting research into whether the boxes reduce sudden deaths, the RCM believes the baby boxes are still beneficial.

In Wigan, it is part of an education programme named Baby Box University, which teaches pregnant women about breastfeeding, maternal mental health, paediatric first aid and other topics.

Kathryn Ashton, infant feeding co-ordinator at Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Women at their 16-week appointment are given details on how to sign up to the Baby Box University and complete the online syllabus.

"On completion the women receive a certificate which is then taken to their nearest start well centre.

"We choose to work in partnership with start well centres to enable them to engage with pregnant mothers early in their pregnancy and give the opportunity for key messages to be reinforced at celebration events.

“Latest statistics show that at least 80 per cent of women are accessing our online syllabus. By combining the box and the education, the baby box programme is undeniably increasing parental engagement with valuable educational content.”