London - A British cot death charity has raised concerns about the safety of so-called "baby boxes" which are used for newborns to sleep in.
The concept originates from Finland, where new parents are given a cardboard box, which can be used as a bed, filled with baby products and a mattress.
The tradition, which has been taken up by a number of organisations and was recently introduced in Scotland, has been cited as helping reduce the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – known as cot death.
But now The Lullaby Trust, which works to reduce SIDS, has said there is no evidence to support the claim the boxes reduce infant mortality.
It acknowledged that for some parents – who do not have an enclosed space for their baby to sleep such as a cot or Moses basket – a box may be a better alternative than a newborn sleeping in a ‘hazardous’ condition. But the charity claimed it is not possible for baby boxes to fully comply with safety standards.
British and EU regulations for nursery furniture only exist for traditional cots, cribs and bassinets and there is currently no specific standard for the use of a cardboard box as a sleeping place for an infant.
The Lullaby Trust also raised questions over the safety of the mattresses in some boxes and has advised parents to check that they meet regulations before using them.
Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, said: "We support all efforts to promote safer sleep for babies, however we do have concerns about the baby boxes being marketed as products which will reduce infant mortality and SIDS.
"We are not aware of any evidence, including in Finland, to support this claim.
"If parents choose to use the box to sleep their baby, we urge them to read and follow our advice, approved by our scientific and paediatric advisers."
The charity has urged health and social care professionals who distribute the boxes – as well as parents considering using one – ensure they comply with safety regulations.
The Lullaby Trust said that it will no longer allow its branded leaflets to be enclosed with baby boxes "as this suggests we endorse the product".
In new advice, the charity also said that if a parent does decide to use a box, it should be used for "daytime naps only", with a baby sleeping in a cot or a Moses basket next to their bed during the night.
It also reminds parents not to lift or carry the box around the home if a baby is in it.