The Finnish-style boxes, which come with other items included clothes an blankets, are offered to parents in Scotland and parts of England.
They were originally introduced as a potential way to minimise the risk of cot death, and the Royal College of Midwives backs their use calling for them to rolled out across the country for a "more equal start to life".
But Professor Peter Blair,of the University of Bristol, believes there is no evidence to suggest they are safer or reduce the risk of sudden infant deaths syndrome (SIDS).
Writing in the British Medical Journal he said: "The cardboard baby box should not be promoted as a safe sleeping space, but as only a temporary substitute if nothing else is available.
Scotland started offering the free boxes to new parents last year and some England NHS Trusts have followed suit.
For some parents who don't have a safe place for their baby to sleep, the boxes are a better alternative to co-sleeping or dangerous spaces like the couch.
But Prof Blair and his colleagues say more research is needed before the boxes should be recommended.
FIND OUT MORE This is how you should put your baby to sleep to lower the risk of cot death, charity warns
Cots, bassinets or Moses baskets allow babies to be easily seen by parents and may also facilitate air flow, whereas the cardboard box – with its higher sides that you can't see through – does not, so carers can see the infant only if they are looking from directly over the box to make sure their child is safe, he said.
The box may also be flammable – as it's cardboard – and may not provide enough protection if it was to fall from a height, they concluded.
THE SUDDEN AND UNEXPLAINED DEATH OF A BABY
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.
In the UK, just under 300 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year.
Most deaths happen during the first six months of a baby’s life.
What causes SIDS?
The exact cause is unknown.
Experts believe SIDS occurs at a particular stage in a baby’s development, and that it affects babies who are vulnerable to certain environmental stresses.
There is also thought to be a link with co-sleeping – sleeping with your baby on a bed, sofa or chair.
"We support any initiative that raises awareness of SIDS, including appropriate SIDS risk reduction advice distributed with cardboard baby boxes," Prof Blair and his colleagues wrote.
"But this advice can be undermined if the messages given are incorrect or mixed with non-evidence based messages about the intervention itself.
"Population-wide initiatives should have to meet high standards of safety and efficacy and should be subject to rigorous evaluation before implementation, because the potential to cause inadvertent and unintended harm is much greater than for those that target a selected population."
The advice reiterates that from charity The Lullaby Trust, which last year said there was no reason to think baby boxes reduce the risk of SIDS.
Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, said at the time: “We support all efforts to promote safer sleep for babies, however we do have concerns about the baby boxes being marketed as products which will reduce infant mortality and SIDS.
“We are not aware of any evidence, including in Finland, to support this claim.”
The charity said British and EU safety standards for nursery furniture only exist for traditional cots, cribs and bassinets and there is currently no specific standard for the use of a cardboard box.
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