Parents of all babies due from Tuesday are set to receive a box filled with the very essential items mums and dads need to look after their newborns.
And while some have dismissed the Baby Box as just a nice gift for every new baby, it doesn’t just come with the best wishes of this government – it has a much more important purpose.
It is part of a series of actions this government is taking to ensure Scotland really is the best place to grow up.
That it is available to every child sends a hugely important message that all children should have the best start in life, no matter their background, and that we will support all children and parents who need our help.
Providing a box only to those on lower incomes would brand our babies with the stigma of poverty from their earliest days. That’s not the kind of society we want to be. So our Baby Box is universal.
Parents need to register for a Baby Box through their midwife, so the scheme also encourages the link with ante-natal services, promoting health and wellbeing for parents and babies and providing support for breastfeeding.
Scotland’s Baby Box has been designed by health experts who have advised on the materials to make sure they contain the items parents and babies need for their first six months. It has been tested in two pilot areas with parents whose feedback has helped to ensure parents and babies receive items that have the most impact. Items in the box include a bath and a room thermometer so families know their baby isn’t too hot or too cold, a baby wrap to promote vital skin to skin contact and a play mat and books to encourage parents in supporting their child’s early development.
Our boxes have been awarded British Safety Standard accreditation as cribs and come with guidance on how to use them as a safe sleeping place for children.
The beauty of the box though is that what goes in it will change as time goes on. We will continue to work with mums, dads and health professionals to see what else could be provided in the future.
And the Baby Box is just one part of a number of actions we are taking to support new and expectant parents and their children. Alongside the box we are expanding Family Nurse Partnerships and providing 50 per cent more health visitors – 500 in total –by the end of next year to provide intensive support to families who need it.
We are fundamentally improving and reshaping the way we deliver maternity and neonatal care, following our review of maternity and neonatal services to truly put the mother, baby and family at the centre of service planning and delivery.
From April this year all pregnant women in Scotland have had access to free vitamins to help them and their baby stay healthy and we’re increasing maternity grants – the Best Start grant – to provide additional support during those crucial first months and at key points in a young child’s development.
And our additional measures don’t stop there – this government is introducing a massive expansion in early learning and childcare. We have expanded free, high quality provision to 600 hours a year for all three and four year olds and extended it to two year olds from low income households, saving families up to £2,500 per child per year in total. The children who will receive the Baby Box this week will be among the first to benefit from a near-doubling of free childcare and will receive the full benefit of the education reforms we are making now when they reach school.
Every parent wants the best for their kids and evidence shows that the first few years of every child’s life is crucial – between birth and three years old is when there is the greatest opportunity for mum and dads to shape how their babies will grow and the types of people they will become.
I want to make sure we do all we can to support new mums and dads – whatever their background – through those first few, unfamiliar months of parenthood and give every child in Scotland the best start in life, whatever their background.
This article originally appeared in the Sunday Mail.