From the moment I was contacted by the Scottish government to write about the new baby boxes being rolled out for all babies born in Scotland after the 15th August 2017 I was beyond excited. I’m not having anymore children so this would be my only opportunity to have a good look inside the box. I'm also inherently nosey and adore all things baby related so this was something I was looking forward to getting my teeth into.
The most important feature of the box itself is the fact that your baby can sleep in it. This should theoretically remove the expense of having to purchase a mosses basket or similar item as it comes with a mattress, mattress protector and fitted sheet. I bed share with Vivienne and Ophelia and never purchased a mosses basket, however if this had been an option for me I think I would have definitely used the box to pop baby down for naps or to simply use it as somewhere safe to put them while you run to the toilet, make a cuppa or brush your hair.
The first thing I noticed once the box was open were the baby clothes. These are well made, great quality clothes in gender neutral colours and super soft cotton. I was so impressed by the quality of the clothes and I have three favourite pieces. The little grey fleece jacket which is beautiful, soft, cozy and practical, an off white vest with multi-coloured crosses and the lovely soft grey leggings. As a parent who has rigorously dressed her children in gender neutral clothing from birth it delights my heart to imagine Scotland doing away with pink and blue clothing (toys, stereotypes) all together, and allowing children to be more than their assigned gender. Alas a girl can dream...
The next thing that caught my eye were the essentials of which much has been written about in regards to the cost of these items, the digital ear thermometer alone being valued at roughly £45. Also included is the bath and room thermometer, travel changing mat, teething ring, sponge and pack of three mini nail files. All of these items will be much loved and well used I can imagine. An in ear digital ear thermometer is something a lot of us would love to have especially in the middle of the night, as baby is crying and her temperature is rising but unfortunately we usually can't justify the expense.
I really liked the cellular blanket. It's lovely and soft with a little bit of stretch to it which will be perfect for swaddling a new born while being big enough to use as a pram/cot blanket after your baby grows out of swaddling age. The muslin cloths and the soft toy are a nice addition, however I was unimpressed by the quality of the towel.
The play mat, fabric book and toy cube were a bit disappointing. I really hated the colours. A splash of dark purples and dark greens with the majority of the colouring baby blue. Not so gender neutral and quite basic and dull. I do think a nice, bright, gender neutral play mat would have been a nice addition to the box as would some bright gender neutral toys.
The Nursing pads and maternity pads are a vital addition to the baby box and i'm delighted to see that they have been included.
There is also a soft, grey sling included in the baby box. I love baby wearing, I exclusively wore my daughter Vivienne for the first year before I put her anywhere near a buggy. Unfortunately in the press box I received there were no instructions included with the fabric sling. My contact at the Scottish Government assured me that your boxes will come with full instructions on how to tie the sling properly however i’m not sure I would have known how to use this type of sling in my first time mum, sleep deprived state. I know some areas have sling libraries where you can pop along with your little one and your sling and they can show you how to use it properly and there are lots of you tube tutorials and Facebook support groups that you can join for instruction and support in baby wearing but all the same I'm unsure of it’s place in the baby box.
The inclusion of two packets of condoms I found to be mostly tokenism as through the C card scheme everyone in Scotland already has access to free condoms. Breastfeeding is also a natural form of contraception as long as you are nursing every three hours (which in those early months is practically guaranteed) and with over half of women in Scotland choosing long term reversible contraception (IUD, depo injection, implant etc) is there a real need to include these in the box? I'm not so sure.
There are some things I feel are noticeably missing. Nappies were the first thing that seemed so obviously absent. During the trial period in Clackmannanshire and Orkney two reusable nappies were included in the box but the feedback was that the nappies went unused. This doesn't surprise me at all as deciding to cloth bum is a huge undertaking (we used cloth with Vivienne but by the time Ophelia came along it was just too big a commitment for us) I’m not sure why disposable nappies were not included. Nappies are such a huge expense in the years before your child is potty trained, and who hans't run out of nappies at the absolute worst time in those first few weeks? If this box is to alleviate the expense of having a new born and to create equality between babies born in Scotland why is one of the biggest expenses not provided for?
There is some other small things I would have liked to have seen included in the box, namely cotton balls, coconut oil and a haakaa pump. The Scottish Government has said that they will keep the contents and the cost of the box under constant review and this I assume means they will listen to feedback and that can only be a good thing.
Now that the fun stuff is out of the way, there is something that has concerned me the more I look at this beautiful box. Apart from three items, the maternity pads, condoms and breast pads, there isn't really anything for the mother. We are lucky enough to live in a country where babies are given Healthy Start vitamins, Bookbug reading packs, Child Smile tooth paste and tooth brushes and the minor aliments service at your local pharmacy where parents can access free nappy rash creams, Calpol, Ibuprofen, teething gel and all sorts of products baby might need.
I think about what it was like as a new mother and the expenses that piled up. Nursing bra’s (£37 each) Electric Breast pump (£165) Nipple Cream (£8.79) Postpartum Support Pants (£16 each) Postpartum Vitamins (£15.25 per month) Stretch mark & relaxation oil (£20) Lactation cookies (£3) Countless books on motherhood and breastfeeding.
The truth is we live in a country where the baby comes first always in every way. There are many initiatives already established to provide equality from birth and now with the introduction of the baby box the Scottish Government hopes that this will give all babies the best possible start in life. But it will be a very different story for the women who birthed them.
For many of us, we give birth and we struggle. We don’t recognise our bodies anymore, we are sleep deprived and full of love and fear. Exhaustion kicks in and often times loneliness. Our lives are turned upside down and we’re left alone with a new life to take care of in a body we don't recognise and a mind that's struggling to make sense of who we are now, compared to who we were then. Wouldn't it be great if mothers were afforded the same sort of box? Full to the brim with self care items such as a journal to record and process your thoughts, sanitary towels, essential oils, postpartum vitamins, shampoo and conditioner for postpartum hair loss, a soothing scented candle, healing crystals, various herbal teas to promote relaxation, milk production and to combat low mood, bath bombs, nipple cream and books!
The most important book that ever single mother should be given is by Naomi Stadlen, ‘What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing’ which is a moving read that helps to empower the new mother and shows her that when she looks round her house and she can't see the floor for mess, when she doesn't recognise the women staring back at her in the mirror, when she hasn't washed, brushed her teeth or changed out of her sleepwear for weeks that what she is doing in these moments is priceless. That even when it looks like she has done nothing, she is doing everything. She is doing things she doesn't even realise. That she has worth, that she is important.
(I also strongly recommend reading Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenting by Hollie McNish. Its short chapters and poems make it easy to read in the middle of the night during those lonely feeds and it's full to the brim with genuine, gut wrenching, soul lifting poetry from an honest mum who's just like us.)
Why do we not put the mental health and wellbeing of new mothers at the same importance level as the physical health of new born babies? More than one in ten women in the UK will suffer from post natal depression within the first year of having a baby and it is now widely accepted that all women will experience the ‘baby blues’ for the first two weeks after birth. Feelings of anxiety and sadness coupled with being tearful are all considered a normal part of postpartum life. Would it not give children a better start if their mothers were suitably cared for so that they felt emotionally and physically well enough to read their baby the books contained in the box, wear the sling or use the condoms?
I know that these things take time. We’re told this often as women. Equal pay will come soon it just takes time. Gender normative roles will soon be a thing of the past, just give it more time. Men and women will be treated the same way eventually in parenthood, in the workplace and in their personal life, just give it time it will eventually change… And when it comes to postpartum care? To putting the women who birth the babies wellbeing to the top of the list?How long will we have to wait? How many more women will suffer in the meantime waiting for that change to come?
The baby box, as beautiful as it is, with it’s many essential items and some not so essential, is a wonderful gift from the government for any expectant mother and I would imagine that for lots of households it will elevate the financial burden of purchasing a few must have items that all add up. However I think that it’s incredibly naive and out of touch with reality to think that this box will give all babies born in Scotland the same start in life. How can it? When the mothers who birth the babies are left so undervalued, unsupported and forgotten.
What I would love to see from our government is the progressive step forward to say mothers you matter, you're health and wellbeing is just as important to us as the health of your beautiful new born baby. I would love for a big exquisite box to arrive that was divided in two, one side full of products for the baby and the other side full of products for the mother.
No baby born in Scotland can ever have the same start if the mothers have completely different postnatal care. Ensuring the wellbeing of the mother is ensuring the wellbeing of the child, they go hand in hand. Empower the mother, make her feel important and provide the essential products needed for a healthy mind and body post birth. That will go along way to improving the life of the baby.