Baby Box from Scotland to Malawi and Zambia by Sophie Downes

A Baby Box helps families prepare for the arrival of their baby. It gives the baby a safe and comfy place for them to sleep and is filled with lots of useful resources for the first weeks and months. Sophie Downes looked at the introduction of this initiative in Scotland to consider if it can be transferred to Malawi or Zambia.

Learning Outcomes

To fully understand:

  • What a ‘Baby Box’ is and it’s intended use.

  • The benefits a baby box has for the baby and families.

  • Why I want to adapt this idea and recreate these boxes for Africa.

  • The work that has to be done to make this happen.


Step by step

1. What do babies need? Baby’s are expensive and they need a lot of essentials items to give them the best start. This can put a lot of pressure on families who may struggle to afford these things. It can be very costly and we can forget this sometimes…

In your groups make a list of all the things parents need to have for the arrival of a new baby:

  • A baby Cot/Crib

  • Car Seat

  • Baby clothes

  • Nappies

  • Toys

  • Any Extras?

2. How much does it cost?

How much money do you need to buy all those items your group has listed?

In the UK it's estimated to cost over £11,000 for the first year alone. Raising a child to the age of 21 costs an estimated £231,000 in the UK. The Baby Box in Scotland costs about £160 per box and all its contents. The Parent Club Scotland has an up to date list of what is in the box. How many items did you match?

3. Discuss

In your group discuss what you think the benefits of the baby box are. Once each group has identified some benefits, come together and share your ideas. Here are some examples:

  • Health – giving children a healthy start to life by giving them the necessities they need. Ensuring they are clothed, warm and have a safe place to sleep.

  • Education & Communication – giving baby’s books at the start of their life helps stimulate the brain and helps them gain skills. Preparing them for talking and understanding words.

  • Finance – takes a burden of expecting mothers and their families. Especially for lower class families who may be struggling.

  • Inequalities – helps to reduce the inequalities children face at birth due to their families status, income and situation. Gives them the fairest start to life.

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – this can happen even when a baby is in a cot or crib but it is suspected that it occurs most when a baby is sleeping in an unsafe place.

  • Reduce Stress – again it relieves the burden on mothers and their families. Allows the family to prepare for their baby properly without as much worries.

4. Why take the baby box to Malawi and Zambia?

In Scotland we have 12 deaths per 1,000 live births — almost twice the national rate of 6.1. Yet Zambia has 59 deaths per 1,000 live births and Malawi has 42. 1 in 13 children in sub-Saharan Africa died before reaching his or hers fifth birthday—15 times higher than the risk for children born in high-income countries. Now try creating a list of items you would add to a baby box in Malawi and Zambia. See what you can find out about the reasons for infant mortality in these countries and whether a baby box would save lives?

You can check out child mortality rates around the world here.

This page from the World Health Organisation's Partnership for Maternal, New Born and Child Health gives an overview of the reasons for infant mortality and ways to tackle it.

Sophie is working with the Scotland Malawi Partnership to explore ways to take the baby box initiative to families there. Use the link to find out more about their work.

Here is a video of what's in the baby box.