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First UK hospital gives parents baby boxes

A hospital in West London has become the first in the UK to give parents so-called "baby boxes".

The idea is based on a tradition in Finland that began in 1938 and is credited with helping the country achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates. Every new mum is given one by the Finnish government.

The UK boxes contain several newborn essentials such as nappies, wipes, clothes and a thermometer. Crucially, it contains a mattress which turns the box into a bed. As it's so portable the baby can sleep in there and never be far away from Mum or Dad. It also discourages parents from sleeping with their newborns in their own beds.

Parents Bianca and Robert get to know their newborn son Jackson Credit: ITV News

New parents Bianca Adefarakan-Davies and her husband Robert were among the first in the UK to be given a baby box for their son Jackson. Although initially unsure about the idea of their baby sleeping in a box, they were soon impressed with its design.

Having this and being given those bits and pieces you need once you get home just for your first few weeks is really brilliant. As a bed, something portable like this is actually really good, and he loves it! If you got any old cardboard box you would not put your child in there, but this one does actually work.

– Bianca Adefarakan-Davies
The boxes are based on a long running tradition in Finland Credit: Finnish Labour Museam

As well as providing a safe sleeping environment, information provided with the box means parents can tap into a host of educational resources, and this is where some of the health benefits stem from. Karen Joash, the consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who's helped get the UK scheme underway, says educating parents is the greatest gift.

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Karen Joash Credit: ITV News

The box is a lovely safe sleeping area, but in addition we will give all women membership to Baby Box University, which is a huge platform for educational resources. Empowering people to be able to understand how to take care of their child to the best of their ability is, I think, the greatest gift.

– Karen Joash, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital

What may come as a surprise is the boxes and the contents aren't costing the NHS a penny. An American social enterprise company is funding the scheme with backing from businesses. Baby Box Co is also behind the new online resource to help parents called Baby Box University.

Jackson gets comfortable in his new baby box Credit: ITV News

Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital was a terrific pilot site because they have a long, rich tradition providing exemplary maternal and infant care services. We really wanted to be associated with that and it snowballed from there. People heard about it and we're expanding very rapidly in the United Kingdom.

– Jennifer Clary, CEO Baby Box Co

Plans are in place for baby boxes to be provided at hospitals in Cheshire, Blackpool and Birmingham over the coming months, as well as several more in London.