It's hoped that the initiative will reduce cot deaths among infants
A new initiative has been launched at Wexford General Hospital aimed at reducing and raising awareness around infant mortality.
Every baby born at the hospital will receive a Baby Box, made from durable cardboard, and come with a firm mattress, waterproof mattress cover, and fitted cotton sheet.
Replacing the need for a traditional Moses basket or cot, it is thought the small size of the Baby Box prevents babies from rolling onto their tummies, which experts think can contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.
The use of Baby Boxes, in conjunction with education initiatives, has contributed to the decrease of infant deaths, or 'cot deaths' in Finland, where they have been in use for 80 years.
As a result, Finland's infant mortality rate reduced from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015. The Nordic country is now regarded as having one of the best maternity systems in the world.
Ireland’s infant mortality rate is currently 3.7 per 1,000 births.
The Baby Box programme will see parents who complete e-learning modules provided with a free Baby Box for their infant to sleep in. Women can sign up for the Baby Box University e-learning at their ante-natal clinic.
“Educating parents on how to care for themselves and their baby during the pregnancy and after is at the centre of the Baby Box initiative," said Helen McLoughlin, CMM3, Womens and Childrens Services, Wexford General Hospital. "We are aiming to encourage every new mother to sign up to the Baby Box University and receive a free Baby Box.
"This will facilitate us in educating parents on good health in pregnancy, encourage safe sleep practice and to highlight when and where to look for help and advice."
Finland’s maternity package was introduced in 1937. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families with low incomes, but was soon rolled out to all mothers-to-be as long as they visited a doctor or prenatal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy.
Finnish parents have the option of choosing a €140 grant over the box, but nearly all take the box as its value is said to be worth far more in terms of monetary cost (around €400).
“What the box symbolises is that every child is equal and deserves an equal start in life,” says Olga Tarasalainen, a spokeswoman for Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland which distributes the boxes.
"The concept has since been trialled in Mexico and New Zealand, and a version was introduced in Scotland last month. However, Finland remains the only country to provide the package regardless of income, location or background.
“Very occasionally we hear conversations about whether the government should be spending the money giving it to every single family, but not to include families of higher wealth or to introduce a means test for the box would make the whole system redundant," she continued.
"The box is outside of class or wealth.”