It’s lovely to see the UK experimenting with a scheme that has been so successful in Finland for many years – a new family are given a sturdy cardboard box, fitted mattress, bedding and other assorted baby essentials so that they have a safe sleeping environment for their newborn. The aim is to reduce incidences of SIDS, also known as Cot Death, something that is a serious concern for new parents. See more here. What new parent wouldn’t benefit from being given a selection of newborn-sized clothes, reusable nappies, wipes, muslins, and a simple environment suitable for a baby to sleep in? There is no doubt that having babies can be an expensive business, so getting a government or charity-funded gift of essentials at this point is fantastic.
However, we want to raise a couple of issues. In various articles we have read it talks about the scheme being a way of preventing or discouraging parents from sleeping with their babies. Co-sleeping, or bed-sharing as we prefer to name it, has become a very controversial topic in recent years. Every woman is advised by the NHS not to sleep with her baby, BUT research-based studies from the Durham University Sleep Lab and as listed in La Leche League’s recent book Sweet Sleep, show that if the “Safe Sleep Seven” are observed that bed-sharing can be beneficial and safe for both mother and baby – in fact, given the type of mammal that we are i.e. primates, it is probably what is expected of us biologically. As doulas, we are aware that the vast majority of women end up sleeping with their baby at one time or other, even if they had no intention of doing it in the first place. So, we would petition that there be really good evidence-based information (the Infant Sleep app is a great source) given to all new parents so that they can make an informed choice about where their new baby will sleep, be that in a moses basket, cardboard box, cot or shared familial bed.
Historically bottle-feeding paraphernalia was included in the Finnish boxes and it is interesting to note that, compared to its Scandinavian counterparts, Finland has significantly lower breastfeeding take-up and continuation (in 2012 Finland was placed 26 out of 36 on Save The Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report – a league table of Developed Countries looking at percentage of hospitals that are baby friendly, state of policy support for the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, breastfeeding practices and maternity leave allowance. It scored lower than the UK’s shameful 25th place). Could it be that the deliberate separation of mothers and babies in a breastfeeding dyad is impacting successful breastfeeding? And, has the inclusion of bottles in the cardboard box up to as recently as 2006 affected the way that Finnish mothers feel about breastfeeding – has it undermined the view of breastfeeding as the norm? Surely these things need to be examined before the scheme is rolled out across the UK.
If you are a new mum looking for support at night, including up-to-date evidence-based information about babies sleeping then visit http://nurturingbirthdirectory.com/listing/night-support/