Scottish Labour has repeated its calls for breastfeeding support to be added to the country’s new baby boxes.
Every baby born on or after 15 August will receive a cardboard box filled with essentials such as nappies, clothes and books.
The boxes will also contain a mattress and blanket, and can be used as a bed for the newborn baby.
But Labour wants additional items such as a breast pump, nipple shields and cream to be included.
The Scottish government said the box contents were based on the advice of health experts, but that more items could be included in future.
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said the baby boxes offered a “unique opportunity” to improve breastfeeding support, particularly among younger mothers from more deprived areas.
Evidence suggests that breastfeeding has important health benefits for both mothers and babies, including a reduced risk of infection in infants and a lower risk of breast cancer, epithelial ovarian cancer and hip fracture later in their mother’s lives.
But the UK is said to have the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world.
Scottish government figures published last year showed that only about half of babies in Scotland were still being breastfed after 10 days – and only 39% at their six to eight week review.
Mothers are recommended to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their child’s life, before continuing beyond that alongside the introduction of solid foods up to the child’s second birthday.
The figures also suggested a clear link between breastfeeding and deprivation, with Scotland’s wealthiest mothers three times more likely to breastfeed than those from the most deprived backgrounds.
Ms Lennon, who has made similar calls in the past, said: “Breastfeeding may be natural, but it is not always easy.
“The baby box presents a unique opportunity to improve breastfeeding support as part of the aim to provide every child in Scotland with the best possible start in life.”
She has written to the Scottish government to suggest a pilot scheme which would see direct aids to support breastfeeding included in the baby box.
She added: “This would be a very practical resource, in addition to existing advisory services, and I hope the SNP will take the proposal on board.”
A Scottish government spokesman said there had been careful consideration over the materials that should be included in Scotland’s Baby Box.
He said: “We’ve consulted health care experts and, importantly, listened to the views of parents, particularly those who took part in the pilot initiative.
“We will keep the contents under review and adapt these to meet the needs of babies and parents. This will certainly include considering what additional items could be provided to complement existing measures and support we provide to promote breastfeeding.
“The baby box is one of a range of measures we provide to give more children the best possible start in life. This includes providing free vitamins and healthy start vouchers for free milk, fruit and vegetables to pregnant women and families on low incomes with young children.”
The baby boxes, which were largely inspired by a scheme in Finland, have been broadly welcomed by health professionals and charities.
The design for the box was unveiled in March, and features a forest fairytale design including Highland cows, squirrels and the Loch Ness Monster.
The Scottish government, which is rolling out the boxes across Scotland after successful pilots in Clackmannanshire and Orkney, believes they will help tackle deprivation, improve health and support parents.
But last week, cot death charity The Lullaby Trust said there was no evidence baby boxes reduced the rate of sudden infant death syndrome and said its leaflets would no longer be put in such boxes.
More from this publisher HERE