NEW mothers who received the first Scottish Government baby boxes from the First Minister on New Year’s Day have been telling The National about their experiences of using them and how vital they are in giving every child an equal start in life.

All newborn babies in Scotland will receive the boxes, containing about 40 different essential baby items, by the summer after a pilot scheme was launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on January 1. She hand-delivered them to the first parents in the pilot areas of Clackmannanshire and Orkney.

The boxes include clothing, bedding and toys and are based on a project that has been running in Finland since 1938 to give all children an equal start. The Scottish Government scheme will cost an estimated £6 million per year.

The box also contains a play mat, a changing mat, a digital thermometer, a fleece jacket, several babygrows, a hooded bath towel, a reusable nappy and liners, a baby book, an organic sponge, cot sheets, a mattress and a blanket, making it suitable for a baby to sleep in.

It also comes with a poem written by Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay in Scots, called Welcome Wee One, which has not been universally welcomed, with some critics on online parenting websites describing it as “vomit inducing” and “completely idealised”.

Professor Graham Watt, an expert in community healthcare and deprivation at Glasgow University, warned the scheme could turn out to be “an expensive, unhelpful stunt”, said “many, perhaps most” parents who received the box of free toys, clothes and bedding would not need it, and its value would depend on the message it conveyed.

Others have queried whether the government should be giving every child the gift when some families have desperate needs.

However, the overall verdict from the mothers who are now using the baby boxes is a very positive one, and they also loved the poem.

Gayle Mellor, from Alloa, said the poem brought a tear to her eye after the birth of her daughter Libby on December 14 and said the boxes will give every baby the same start in life.

“The poem was really nice,” she said. “It brought a wee tear to my eye when I read it first, probably because I was hormonal, but it is really, really nice.

“It’s nice that it’s in Scots, it’s very relevant as it’s a Scottish idea. I’m trying not to read comments about it but I suppose for every negative one there’s a positive as well. I liked it. It’s the first thing you see when you open the box, and it’s nice to keep as well.

“We were talking about it at the clinic and a few of the mums were saying it would be nice to frame. I don’t know what we’ll do with ours, but we plan on keeping the box.

“I know in Finland, where the idea originated, a lot of the mums said they keep the boxes for their kids all the way through to their adult life until they leave home and go to university, when they put their stuff in the box and take it with them. So, it is quite nice.

“Libby’s been in the box and had a nap already and she quite likes it.”

Gayle and husband David already have two sons Charlie, six, and three-year-old Joe, so they weren’t entirely dependent on the contents of the box.

“There’s loads of stuff in the box and we’ve made use of some of it already,” said Gayle. “Some of the clothing is slightly bigger sizes so Libby will grow into them. I think it’s brilliant – a lot bigger than I thought it would be.

“I didn’t expect to get a box because I thought the initiative was coming in after I had Libby, so we were prepared for her, but we have made use of some of the clothing and it will be so handy for mums-to-be to get this when they’re around seven months.

“They’ll be asked at their midwife appointments if they want a box, so it won’t be forced on them. If they don’t think they can make use of it they don’t have to take it.”

She added that they would have welcomed the box when their sons were born.

“I work in a car leasing company and David works as well, so all our money goes on the kids, so any help is greatly appreciated. I think it’s a great thing that will help a lot of mums.

“It’s giving all babies the same start in life which I think is the main reason for the launch, and that’s a good thing.”


The National:

DELIGHTED parents in Orkney told how they were so touched by the poem they received inside their new baby boxes that they plan to frame it and hang it in their baby’s bedroom as a keepsake.

First-time mum Joanne Pirie, 20, from Kirkwall, Orkney, gave birth to baby Olivia Harper Rose on Hogmanay at the local Balfour Hospital in Orkney. Partner Conner Mackenzie, 22, said she was born at 2.26pm.

Joanne and her partner agree the boxes are brilliant and it is good that parents who can’t afford essentials will get one to help their baby get a good start in life.

“I got mine on January 1. We just got home from hospital on Thursday and started using the baby box instantly, along with the mattress and sheets. It is a great place for her to sleep. It is ideal for a newborn baby, it’s a good size and she seems to be really happy and content sleeping in it. I think it must be very comfortable for her.

“All the stuff inside was ideal, especially for a first-time mum. It has all the essentials in there and I loved Jackie Kay’s poem. It will be nice to frame it and put it up in Olivia’s bedroom as a lovely keepsake. I thought it was a really lovely personal touch. It was a nice surprise and it was special. I don’t have a problem with the poem being written in Scots, I think it is a great idea.

“The boxes are a great idea and save money and it’s great every baby will get one. Once Olivia grows out of it I will definitely keep the box and reuse it if I had another baby. In the meantime you could use it to store baby clothes and the bedding.”

The National:

Another Kirkwall mother, Charlene Nicol, 28, also from Kirkwall, gave birth to Camrynn on December 30 in Aberdeen and began using the baby box when they arrived home.

The mother-of-four said: “I think the baby box is a brilliant idea and it is great that everyone gets one because it has all the essentials you need, especially for first-time mums. I like the idea that no matter what your income is you get one so no-one is singled out. Because she was my fourth child I had already packed in my bag but there were other things in it that I probably wouldn’t have purchased like a thermometer for the bath and a proper digital thermometer which I have never bought. It is one of those things that cost a bit more but you just don’t think they are essential.

“We don’t have anywhere in the house we could lay Camrynn down through day between feeds and the box is ideal. She has taken to the box more than her cot. She seems more settled in there and seems to really like it. I think it’s a great idea. It would have been good to have the box when I had my first child.

“I also thought the poem was lovely and we are going to get it framed for Camrynn’s room. We got it on New Year’s Day so the Scottish poem was very fitting.”


Welcome Wee One

by Jackie Kay

Welcome Wee One
O ma darlin wee one
At last you are here in the wurld
And wi’ aa your wisdom
Your een bricht as the stars,
You've filled this hoose with licht,
Yer trusty wee haun, your globe o' a heid,
My cherished yin, my hert's ain!

O my darlin wee one
The hale wurld welcomes ye:
The mune glowes; the hearth wairms.
Let your life hae luck, health, charm,
Ye are my bonny blessed bairn,
My small miraculous gift.
I never kent luve like this.