Thursday 17 January 2019

What's inside the baby boxes which Katherine Zappone hopes will increase Ireland’s birth rate?

Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is examining proposals to introduce 'baby boxes' for parents of every newborn baby in Ireland, as part of a strategy to increase Ireland’s birth rate.

The baby boxes, which are a famous tradition Finland, contain a starter kit for babies and can double up as a crib for the first few months of a baby’s life.

New parents attending Wexford General Hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital and University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) already received the baby boxes as part of pilot schemes.

So what’s in a baby box?

They can contain babygrows, bathing products, nappies and bedding.

But baby boxes also serve as an educational tool because in order to receive a baby box, parents have to first watch a series of online videos and answer some multiple choice questions based on these videos.

Karen Smyth (38) received a baby box on the birth of her now-19-month-old girl Cleo in Limerick. Karen, a tattooist, had a special connection to the baby box from the beginning, since she designed the butterfly theme for the boxes from UMHL.

“The whole meaning behind the butterfly is rebirth and we just thought it was the perfect symbol for the baby box. Sometimes it represents beauty itself and for us, it was about metamorphosis, change and new life, and the chance to have happiness. They’re (babies) just butterflies, for us we were becoming parents.”

“We thought we were losing Cleo [when Karen’s waters broke at 14 weeks] and then she was this gorgeous caterpillar and she changed into a butterfly.”

“I’m just really humbled to be even considered to be part of the baby box project.”

“The box had baby wipes, little vests, clothes, nappies, creams for yourself and the baby. It doubles up as a cot. In the Nordic countries, every parent receives the baby box and cot deaths have plummeted.”

“I did the questionnaire and then I received the box the day she was born. It’s quite a blur, it was the most amazing day of my life.”

Cleo slept in the baby box for her first five months, and since then Karen has kept the box for safe keeping.

“It’s fantastic that everyone is going to have this baby box for life. For Cleo’s christening, everyone wrote letters for her and she’ll open them when she’s 21. Every year I’ll put in a painting or scarf or heirloom, and then when she’s 21 she’ll have 21 gifts to open, and then she’ll have 21 letters that people wrote to her when she was 21. It’s a keepsake box now.”

Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist Dr Naro Imcha said the baby box scheme is still running in University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

“Initially, I was working in Queen Charlotte in the UK and they had introduced the baby box there... It was mainly about the education for the mum; we wanted to give the same education to the mum about antenatal care and postnatal care and care of the baby.”

“TThe mothers book into us at about 12 weeks in their pregnancy and there’s a baby box university card. They log into the baby box university, there’s a video from the public health nurse, GP, midwife, about breastfeeding. We have the lectures up on the website, they look at this, and then answer questions after they do the course, and they get a certificate. They bring the certificate to us and then we give them the baby box.”

The baby boxes are given free to UMHL by the baby box university.

“There is no advertising material in there, that was one of the priorities we had. We are a baby-friendly breastfeeding hospital. A box comes with a mattress, sheet, one nappy, and a baby grow and one leaflet for sleep safe, wipes, two breast pads.”

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