Baby boxes have limited impact, study finds
Scotland’s baby box scheme has had a limited positive impact on new mothers and infants, according to a recent scientific study.
While it was linked to a small reduction in primary carers smoking and children exposed to second-hand smoke, and a slight increase in younger mothers breastfeeding, researchers concluded “absolute effects were small”.
Introduced in August 2017, baby boxes provide expectant parents with a range of items such as blankets, clothes, toys and a changing mat.
They were designed as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to give all children the “best start in life”.
But studies into the impact of the box, and similar versions abroad, have been limited despite increasing international uptake.
This new study, published in The Lancet and funded by the government’s chief scientist office, National Records of Scotland and the Medical Research Council, found the boxes had no impact on infant and maternal hospital admissions or infant sleeping position.
On the reduction of infant and primary carer smoke exposure, it said the effect was small and did not persist beyond the immediate postnatal period.
The biggest benefit was an increase in the number of mothers under 25 who were exclusively breastfeeding their child. This impact appeared to persist at 6-8 weeks.
However, there was no increase in exclusive breastfeeding for older mothers.
Junior health minister Maree Todd – who was in charge of the Scottish baby box scheme for much of its existence – said the report found a “small but significant positive impact on health”.
“An excellent investment to welcome all new babies,” she added.