Lothian charity to supply Finland-style baby boxes

Many Finnish babies sleep in the boxes for the first year of their lives. Picture: contributed
Many Finnish babies sleep in the boxes for the first year of their lives. Picture: contributed
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AM I living in a box? Am I living in a cardboard box? So sang the Eighties pop act of the same name – scoring an unlikely top ten hit in 1987 with their catchy tune.

But “living in a box” could become not just the preserve of the homeless but the first “home” for newborns in Bathgate, West Lothian, thanks to a forward-thinking new charity.

A group called New Life is looking to supply new mums with baby boxes – an idea which originated in Finland – and one which has been credited with dramatically cutting infant mortality rates.

The boxes, which will contain sleepsuits, vests, nappies and toiletries for mum and baby, are expected to be distributed in August from the Bathgate Health Centre.

Local Bathgate SNP Councillor William Boyle said he thought it was “an excellent initiative”.

He added: “I have two grandchildren and I know how expensive new babies can be. The challenge will be to find the funding to really get the project going, but I would be happy to help get them pointed in the right direction.”

A number of mums have already signed up to the scheme, which is massively popular in Finland.

The scheme was introduced in the 1930s, when Finland had a high infant mortality rate of 65 in 1000, and since then nearly every child born in the country has been presented with one of the packages. Mothers have the option of taking 140 Euros instead, but only five per cent do so, as the box is widely believed to represent better value.

Many Finnish infants even spend the first year of their life sleeping in the specially made box, which comes with a mattress. Thanks to the scheme, and the introduction of prenatal care for all women in the 1940s and the advent of the Finnish National Health Service in the 1960s, Finland now has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

Widespread introduction of the boxes across the Lothians would be likely to further drive down infant mortality rates – which are already tumbling.

We revealed in February last year how the death rate for infants during the first year of life in the Lothians was 2.4 per 1000 live births during 2010, down from 3.4 in 2009 and 4.1 in 2008. The Scottish average for 2010 was 3.7 deaths per 1000, the lowest ever recorded.

New Life is the brainchild of Bathgate mother of five Claire Coyle, who was inspired to take on the challenge after having to spend a fortune on supplies for her latest arrival.

Claire said: “We’ve been running for less than a week and already the response has been brilliant, people are really getting behind it. Local health centres and clinics have agreed to carry our flyers telling people about the scheme and asking for volunteers and donations, and people have actually started handing things in already! Mums have been just coming up and handing me baby things that they no longer need when I’m dropping off my other kids at school.”

‘It would be fantastic if this was available all over’

Claire Coyle, 31, lives in Bathgate with her partner Michael, also 31, and her five children – nine-year-old Katie, Ben, seven, Matty, six, Lee, four, and baby Joseph, who is just five months old.

She said: “When I found out I was pregnant with Joseph I had already given away all the baby stuff I had for my other children, so I pretty much had to start from scratch.

“I did manage to get some things second-hand, but it still all adds up.”

She added: “When I saw on the news about the Finnish baby boxes that are given out by the government over there I thought it was a great idea, especially as new mums often need a bit of direction regarding what they’re going to need, there’s so much to think about and remember.

“I thought, someone should do something like that here in Bathgate. Then it struck me – well, why don’t we?”

She added: “It would be fantastic if this was available all over the country, like it is in Finland.”

More information on the project, which was set up by Claire, can be found online at www.facebook.com/newlifees.s. You can also donate to New Life through eBay under “Baby Bundle Charity”.