University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) launched a major initiative aimed at reducing the incidence of infant mortality and raising awareness through educating parents on how to care for newborns. The Baby Box programme – a national first - will see mothers who complete e-learning modules provided with a free baby box for their infant to sleep in. The online education element is inclusive and accessible; easy to follow and available in 17 languages, reflecting the growing diversity of Irish maternity hospitals. Women booking in at ante-natal clinics will be given details on how to sign up for the e-learning at the Baby Box University.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death, is the sudden unexpected death of an apparently well infant and for which there is no explanation. About nine out of 10 cases occur in the first six months of life, with a greater risk for premature and lowbirth-weight babies. The use of Baby Boxes has been credited with helping reduce infant mortality rates in Finland, where they have been in use for over 75 years. The tradition has contributed to reducing the infant mortality rate in Finland from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015. Ireland’s infant mortality rate is 3.7 per 1,000 births.
Other countries, including the UK, Canada and USA, have begun to introduce this concept to their families. UMHL—in partnership with The Baby Box Co. - is the first Irish maternity hospital to embrace the idea. New mothers in Limerick will be presented with a Baby Box, containing clothing and other goods as well as educational materials. The Baby Boxes, which are made from a durable cardboard, can be used as a baby’s bed for up to the first eight months of their Baby Box Project aims to reduce incidence of infant mortality life. Replacing the need for the traditional Moses basket or cot, it is thought the small size of the Baby Box prevents babies from rolling onto their tummies, which experts think can contribute to SIDS. The Baby Boxes come with a firm foam mattress, waterproof mattress cover, cotton sheet - and education materials with advice from healthcare professionals in the MidWest on reducing risks to baby, improving parental bonding and making the transition to parenthood.
The theme chosen for the Limerick initiative is ‘Celebrating Life, Celebrating Family’.
“The Baby Box programme is a proactive approach to improving the health and safety of the newborn child and parents. We are combining tradition with current technology and supporting the newborn child’s family with online educational material covering a broad range of essential topics on ante and postnatal care,”said Dr Mendinaro Imcha, Consultant Gynaecologist/Obstetrician, UMHL. Margaret Gleeson, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group, said education was a central element of the project, arising from which up to 5,000 boxes would be distributed to the families of babies born at UMHL over the year of the programme. “The Baby Boxes designed by one of our patients are a thing of beauty. Then there is the invaluable education element of the initiative which makes it truly patientcentred,” said Ms Gleeson. “That education involves brief video tutorials delivered by local healthcare professionals addressing the most common concerns of parents with newborn babies. A number of these videos were made in our hospital with our specialists. We think all of our staff here at UMHL are stars and they were delighted - along with their colleagues in public health nursing and community and primary care - to make videos advising new parents in critical areas like breastfeeding, nutrition, perinatal mental health, neonatal resuscitation, postnatal community support, postnatal checkup, immunisation, VTE and sepsis,” added Ms Gleeson.
The Limerick Baby Box has been designed by Tipperary-based tattoo artist and expectant mum Karen Smith. “The whole meaning behind the design is rebirth. I thought the butterfly was the perfect symbol for the Baby Box. It is a symbolic creature in many cultures. It sometimes represents Beauty itself, or metamorphosis, and at other times the transitory nature of happiness and indeed all of life. They lend themselves to all manner of colourful and fanciful adaptations, in our case our beautiful Baby Box,” said Karen. Jennifer Clary, the CEO of The Baby Box Co., which is supplying UMHL with the Baby Boxes and Baby Box University memberships for participating parents said: “We are delighted to expand the Baby Box programme to Ireland and look forward to an impactful collaboration here at University Maternity Hospital Limerick