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Is a cardboard baby box safe for a sleeping baby?

A safe-sleeping charity has voiced concerns with Finnish-style baby boxes

A prominent baby charity has raised concerns over the perceived benefits of putting your baby to sleep in a Finnish-style cardboard baby box.

Some NHS Trusts in England and Scotland have been giving out these boxes, which are filled with baby products and a mattress, and can be used as a bed if needed.

Some think that baby boxes reduce the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids). But The Lullaby Trust says there’s no strong evidence to prove this, and has issued new guidance on how you should put your baby to sleep safely.

If you’d rather put your little one to sleep in a cot, head to our cot bed reviews where you can see our latest test results.

What is a baby box?

It’s a cardboard box filled with baby products, such as clothes, a sleeping bag, nappies, bedding and a mattress, and the box itself can double up as a bed.

Every pregnant Finnish woman has been given one for the past 75 years. A number of other countries are now following suit, because Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

According to the UN, it has two deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with the global rate of 32 in 1,000. In theory, the boxes provide a safe sleep space for babies but, according to the Lullaby Trust, there’s no strong scientific evidence to suggest they lower the rate of Sids.

Safe sleeping guidance for babies

The Lullaby Trust is concerned by the use of these boxes. They can’t be tested to the same rigorous British and EU safety standards as cots, cribs or bassinets, which experts agree are the safest places for a baby to sleep.

The charity also takes issue with these boxes being promoted as products to reduce Sids. It says they’re a better alternative to co-sleeping with a baby in dangerous circumstances, such as on a sofa, but it’s always safest to put your baby to sleep in a Moses basket, cot, crib or bassinet.

For more advice, read our guide on using cot beds safely.

The dos and don’ts of baby boxes

The Lullaby Trust has issued some guidance for using baby boxes. It recommends that you:

  • use your baby box for daytime naps only, and put your baby to sleep in a cot or a Moses basket next to your bed during the night
  • do not lift or carry the box around your home if your baby is in it
  • do not put the lid on the box if your baby is in it
  • always keep the box clear as a sleeping space
  • do not place additional bedding on top of the mattress to raise your baby up to a higher level
  • ensure the box is placed on a solid surface and can’t topple over
  • do not use the box if it gets wet or soiled
  • do not put a box on an under-heated floor
  • ensure any pets stay away from the box
  • do not leave the baby in the box unattended or out of view
  • do not use the box once your baby is able to roll
  • ensure that you comply with any instructions relating to the maximum age and weight of the infant you’ll be using the box for
  • be aware that some manufacturers state that their boxes meet European Union 1130 standard for cots, cribs and bassinets. But while some elements of a cardboard box may comply with this standard, such as the wood material, the structure and smooth edges, for example, remember that EU 1130 is a furniture standard for traditional cots, cribs and bassinets
  • ensure the mattress and mattress filling meets the British Standard 7177 and the 1988 UK fire regulations as amended. The mattress should also meet the British Standard 1877, and this should be clearly and permanently labelled on the mattress.
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