Figures showing that more than 50,000 baby boxes were delivered to the parents of newborns in the first year of the programme have been welcomed as “amazing” by Scotland’s Early Years Minister.
The Scottish Government has revealed 52,065 baby boxes have been gifted to date, the equivalent of 1,000 per week and representing an 85% uptake by parents.
The box contains items such as clothing, a toy, a play mat, books, a towel, a sling carrier and thermometers. Meanwhile, the box itself can be used as a sleeping space for new babies.
The projected cost of the initiative was £8 million for 2017/18, rising to £8.8 million for each of the following three years.
Maree Todd, the Children and Early Years Minister at Holyrood, said the gift shows that “the country welcomes this baby too”.
On the take-up of the box, she told Press Association Scotland: “It’s amazing. When I saw that over 50,000 babies had received a box – over 1,000 a week – it’s a really exciting point in the history of this baby box.
“I think this is about the baby box becoming part of the national psyche in Scotland.”
She told how the box contains several items that parents might not necessarily think of buying.
“Some of the most positive feedback comes from the thermometers,” she said.
“The ear thermometer, in particular, is quite an expensive piece of kit and people don’t think about buying it necessarily until the baby is sick.
“So it’s great that it comes in the baby box and they are able to use it and access medical help and support quickly if they need it.”
Critics at the start of the scheme suggested that giving the box to any eligible parents, including those who can easily afford the contents, did not represent the best use of public funds.
However, Ms Todd insisted: “I think that (the universality) is one of the nicest things about the box.
“It’s one of the things that many parents give me very positive feedback about. They like it that every baby in the land is welcomed in the same way and there’s no stigma associated with it.”
Ms Todd was speaking following an event at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, where a baby box is to go on display.
A parent survey earlier revealed the most popular items were the room thermometer, followed by the ear thermometer and the sling.
The majority of mothers and fathers (62%) said they had used or planned to use the box as a bed.
Gillian Steele, 31, from Livingston in West Lothian, said she was glad she took up the offer to have a box.
Ms Steele, the mother of four-month-old girl, said: “There was lots of stuff in it that we found really useful and we’re actually still using – things like nail files, the bath thermometer, as well as the muslins and baby grows.”
Judith Anderson, health visitor for NHS Lothian said the baby box also offers a safe space for newborns and can even be coloured-in by their siblings.
She said: “I know there’s been debate about everybody getting one, but that’s been really well received and a lot of parents who maybe wouldn’t have expected it are really happy with it and use it. It’s really important, I think.
“Take it up and be creative with it. Just use it, it’s a great resource.”