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The Baby Bundles Pilot is a Welsh Government initiative to provide a ‘welcome to the world gift’ to newborn babies. The pilot was delivered within the Swansea Bay University Health Board area and delivered baby bundles to 200 families expecting a baby by early 2021. Baby bundles comprise a range of products and information for the child’s first months.
The aim of the evaluation, undertaken by Arad Research, was to provide independent evidence to inform policy and delivery decisions for a potential national delivery of baby bundles. The evaluation builds on early development research, and is designed to be considered alongside other evidence.
The methods adopted for the evaluation were:
- a review of policy and delivery documents relating to the Pilot
- interviews with policy and delivery partners
- online survey of parents (completed by 57 parents) and a telephone interview with 16 parents, to gather views on the process of registering for and receiving the bundle; the items included; impact on spending; and information and messaging
The research findings should be treated as indicative only, given the small scale of the pilot, combined with sampling and timing issues related to Pilot delays caused by COVID-19.
Design and delivery of the Pilot
The initial planning discussions, and the establishment and the first meeting of a project board, took place in early summer 2019. The general design of the bundle was agreed upon at this stage.
Planning and establishing the baby bundles pilot was described as a time-consuming process, with detailed discussions and research needed on parents views, the usefulness, safety and availability of items, funding and procurement and the delivery processes. The latter stages of the project were made more difficult by COVID-19. Nevertheless, once implementation had begun, the delivery contractor APS and the midwives in Swansea reported receiving clear information and a good working relationship with the Welsh Government and the pilot was implemented successfully.
Registering for and receiving the bundles
Registering to receive the bundle was very straightforward according to both the parents and the midwives. Almost all parents who responded to the survey (54 out of 57) thought that the information given by the midwife about the baby bundle was ‘very clear’. Parents explained in the interviews that registering for a baby bundle was straight-forward, with the midwife completing the forms in many cases. The timing of receiving information about the bundle was about right for the majority (46 of 57) of parents who responded to the survey and those interviewed. However, a few parents felt that hearing about the bundle earlier (including a detailed list of specific contents) would have ensured they knew what to buy or what not to buy in advance.
All parents were pleased with how the bundle had been delivered and its overall condition, citing no major issues.
Views on and use of bundle items
Parents were extremely positive about the contents of the bundle and its quality in both the survey responses and interviews. Many were surprised at the volume of items.
The interviews with parents provided an opportunity to discuss parents’ impressions of the items in more detail. Parents were very positive about the type of items included in the bundle and the high quality of those items in interviews.
When asked about what had been used and what had proved useful, all parents replied that they had used most items. The most useful items, noted by half of the parents, were various practical items such as the muslins, maternity pads, breast pads and nipple cream. Clothes were the next most useful item and almost all parents reported using them, including those parents with older children. There was no consensus on the usefulness of the rucksack changing bag. Five of the 16 parents interviewed described this as one of the most useful items, but another five reported that it had not been used.
Half of the bundles distributed to parents contained a baby sling and the other half contained a set of reusable nappies. There was a preference for slings over reusable nappies in both the survey and interview responses. Eight of the parents interviewed had received reusable nappies in their bundles, however none had used them; nine of the parents interviewed had received a sling in their bundle, of whom six reported having used it.
Information and messaging in the bundle
Most of the survey respondents reported that they had read the leaflet and card which accompanied the bundle, but had not followed the web links. There was not a strong recollection of the card or leaflet amongst most of these parents when interviewed a few months after receiving the bundle.
Baby bundles are intended as a ‘welcome to the world’ gift from the Welsh Government and one of their objectives is to promote a more equal playing field for parents and their babies by reducing the need for expenditure on newborn essentials.
In the survey and interviews, parents were asked whether knowing they were getting the bundle affected what they bought for their baby and almost two-thirds of surveyed parents responded that they would buy fewer items themselves. Parents noted that they hadn’t needed to buy particular items because they were included in the bundle, citing examples such as the sleeping bag, the bag or the play mat. Interviewed parents expressed gratitude and surprise at the number of ‘expensive’ or high-quality items in the bundle, noting that the inclusion of such items significantly reduces their own spending.
Parents explained that it would be helpful to have a clear list of bundle contents earlier in their pregnancies as some parents will have already started purchasing items. A couple of parents noted that they had purposefully delayed purchasing items until they had received their bundle, to avoid duplication.
More generally, during their interviews parents explained than in addition to saving money, the bundles can save parents the effort of purchasing all the new essentials that they might need. Receiving the bundles was viewed as a nice gesture from the Welsh Government which made them feel well-supported, while others emphasised that the bundle helps provide prospective parents with peace of mind as they don’t need to worry about purchasing every essential item in advance.
Parents responding to the survey were asked for any comments about whether baby bundles should be introduced in the rest of Wales, or any suggestions about how such a project could be improved in the future. Parents were generally in favour of rolling out the baby bundles more widely. In interviews parents tended to prefer the bundles be made available to all parents-to-be who wished to have one, but if that was not possible then suggested that the bundles could be provided to those parents on lower incomes and/or first-time parents only. There wasn’t a consensus among the midwives interviewed as to whether the baby bundles scheme was the most suitable way of helping out the parents-to-be.
On the basis of the evidence collected from Welsh Government officers, midwives and parents, the pilot was implemented efficiently and the bundles welcomed by parents.
The implementation of the bundles was carefully planned, and despite the additional difficulties placed by COVID-19 restrictions, the scheme was implemented smoothly. Parents reported that the process of hearing about, registering for and receiving the bundles was clear and simple. The timing of registering and receiving the bundle was about right for most parents but too late for some.
There were generally very positive views on the contents of the bundle. Parents were appreciative of the gift, and many used the evaluation interviews as a chance to express their gratitude. Based on parents’ interviews, should the initiative be rolled-out, the contents of the bundles need not be changed much.
There was a clear appreciation of the bundle by parents especially as a gesture made them feel supported at a special time. As regards how the initiative should be rolled out there were split views on whether it should be available to all parents or instead be means-tested and/or targeted towards first-time parents. There was an acknowledgement from some parents, and from the midwives, that an argument can be made on both sides of making the bundles universal or targeted, but overall, there was a slight lean from parents who participated in this research towards making it available to all if possible.
Authors: Sioned Lewis and Tanwen Grover (Arad Research).
Full Research Report: Lewis, S., Grover, T. (2021). Baby Bundles Pilot Evaluation. Cardiff: Welsh Government, GSR report number 31/2021.
Views expressed in this report are those of the researcher and not necessarily those of the Welsh Government.
For further information please contact:
Research and Evidence Lead
Childcare, Play and Early Years Division
Digital ISBN 978-1-80195-032-9