A cot death charity questioned the safety and ability to reduce infant mortality of a bed for newborn babies recently promoted for parents across Warwickshire.
The Lullaby Trust says the Baby Boxes cannot comply with safety standards, the mattresses are of concern, and there is no evidence to back up the claim they reduce the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
NHS Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) held an event in July promoting the use of the boxes as an alternative to Moses baskets and handed them out free to new parents.
Charity chief executive Francine Bates said: "We support all efforts to promote safer sleep for babies, however we do have concerns about the baby boxes being marketed as products which will reduce infant mortality and SIDS.
"We are not aware of any evidence, including in Finland, to support this claim.
"It is also not possible for baby boxes to meet all current safety standards, as nursery furniture regulations only apply to traditional cots, cribs and bassinets, not boxes made from cardboard.
"If parents choose to use the box to sleep their baby, we urge them to read and follow our advice, approved by our scientific and paediatric advisers”.
Baby boxes are a range of products, usually made from cardboard with a mattress inside, intended for use as a baby’s sleeping place.
The Coventry and Rugby CCG promoted the use of the boxes as part of its new education and awareness programme to support new parents to keep their babies safe.
The event at Coventry Transport Museum on July 19, saw parents from across the county encouraged to take part in a programme promoting parent/baby health, as well as highlighting potential risks to be aware of, such as co-sleeping whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
A CCG spokesman said: "The introduction of the baby box as a simple alternative to a Moses basket further supports the work of our health visitors and family nurses, who play a pivotal role in providing education, support and advice to families from the birth of their baby up until the child starts school.
"NHS Coventry and Rugby CCG will work with the Baby Box Company to ensure all future communications acknowledge the advice issued by the Lullaby Trust.
"We have been assured that all boxes provided comply with EN/UK standard for cribs and cradles, and the mattresses provided comply with UK and EU cot mattress standards."
The Lullaby Trust points out that it is not possible for the boxes to fully comply with standards, as current British and EU laws for nursery furniture only cover traditional cots cribs and bassinets, with no specific standard for the use of a cardboard box as a sleeping place for an infant.
The trust, a charity that works to reduce the rates of SIDS, is concerned about claims the cardboard boxes, inspired by those distributed by the government in Finland, are being promoted as a product parents can use to help reduce the risk of cot death.
The charity acknowledges that for some parents, who do not have an enclosed space for their baby to sleep such as a cot or moses basket, a box may be a better alternative than co-sleeping with a baby in hazardous circumstances, such as on a sofa.
However the Lullaby Trust does not believe it is factually correct to directly link the use of a baby box with a reduction in infant mortality or SIDS.
The charity has also raised questions about the safety of the mattresses used in some of the baby boxes available on the market and advises parents to check they meet standards before use.
In some areas boxes are being distributed to parents by health and social care professionals, as part of an initiative to encourage parents to follow safer sleep guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS.
The Lullaby Trust supports any initiative that raises awareness of SIDS and safer sleep but urges all agencies to ensure that boxes and mattresses supplied to parents comply as fully as possible with British and European Standards and our UK fire regulations.
The charity maintain that, according to current research and available evidence, a cot or Moses basket is the safest place to sleep a baby.
The Baby Box Co., which makes the boxes, said nothing is more important to them than safety and its product meets all safety guidelines.
Chief executive Jennifer Clary said: "Our programme is designed to pay homage to the Finnish model by providing safe-sleep Baby Boxes universally to expecting and new parents in communities where the local healthcare experts collaborate to develop and implement an education programme on Baby Box University.
"Baby Box University is at the heart of our operations because this secure platform enables our team and local healthcare partners to objectively monitor the efficacy of our collective contributions and alter community program designs as needed to have maximum impact on public wellness outcomes."
For more guidance on the boxes, click here.