In some areas the boxes are being distributed to parents by health and social care professionals, as part of an initiative to encourage parents to follow safer sleep guidelines to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The Lullaby Trust says it supports programmes that raise awareness about SIDS and safer sleep, but is urging agencies to ensure that baby boxes and mattresses given to parents comply with British and European standards and UK fire regulations.
It says that it will no longer allow its branded leaflets to be enclosed with baby boxes, as this suggests it endorses the product.
The charity has released new advice for parents who are considering using a baby box as a place for their baby to sleep.
It is concerned about the safety of some mattresses used in baby boxes and recommends that parents check that they comply with British Standards 7177 and 1877, and that the filling in the mattress meets UK fire regulations. This should be clearly labelled on the mattress, which should also be firm, flat and waterproof, in line with safer sleep guidance on reducing the risk of SIDS.
It says 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 option than co-sleeping with a baby, for example on a sofa, which it considers dangerous.
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.
‘It is also not possible for baby boxes to meet all current safety standards, as nursery furniture regulations only apply to traditional cots, cribs and bassinets, not boxes made from cardboard. 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.’
Baby boxes have been used in Finland since the 1930s and are credited with helping to decrease infant mortality rates.
However, based on the evidence available, the Lullaby Trust says that it is wrong to link the use of baby boxes with a reduction in infant mortality or SIDS.
It says that based on existing research by SIDS researchers across the world over the last 25 years, it continues to recommend that a cot or moses basket is still the safest place for a baby to sleep.
Earlier this year the Scottish government started piloting a baby box scheme in in Clackmannanshire and Orkney.