More than 80 years ago Finland began to give every expectant mother a Baby Box as a starter kit for their new baby.
Additional to including clothes and all other new-born accessories, the actual Baby Box complete with mattress, was designed to be used as a first bed.
Evidence suggests that this continuing Baby Box program has allowed Finland to now hold one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.
In the 1930’s Finland was economically poor and the infant mortality rate was high.
The Baby Box program was introduced at this time and infant mortality figures have been recorded as making a rapid improvement in the decades that followed.
The ‘Baby Box’ initiative still allows every expectant mother to claim a free baby box once she has received professional pre-natal care and parenting information.
This national program has been credited with supporting the decrease in Finland’s infant mortality rate from 65 deaths per 1000 births in 1938 to 3 deaths per 1000 children born in 2013.
One of the basic principles of the Baby Box policy is to promote good parenting education and skills.
When the Baby Boxes appeared in the 1930’s many babies were sleeping in the same beds as their parents, although it was recommended that this practice should stop. So, including the box as a bed enabled parents to let their babies sleep separately from them.
The contents have varied across the decades, with the boxes of the 1930’s and 40’s including fabric for mothers to make their baby’s clothes.
In the 1950’s readymade clothes appeared and new ‘stretchy’ fabrics began to be included in the box.
In 1968 a sleeping bag was included and the following year disposable nappies were featured.
In 2000 the disposable version was replaced by cloth nappies again.
A traditional Baby Box is presented to all Finnish families on the birth of their baby regardless of income.
It ensures that ‘Every Child Is Equal’ and is now much more than a material incentive.
It has ensured that from an impoverished nation, Finland now has one of the best maternity care systems in the world!
With its gender-neutral patterns and carefully packaged products, todays baby box contains 50 of the most necessary products needed for a baby’s first year.
A main goal of this program was to encourage more mothers to breastfeed and to encourage this baby bottles and dummies were removed. The addition of picture books has also had a positive effect encouraging young children to handle books and begin the process of reading.
This Finnish tradition is being promoted in the UK, as various hospitals are now giving free Baby Boxes to new parents.
A well-publicised Baby Box scheme being trialled in England is taking place at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, London, part of the Imperial College Healthcare Trust. This will involve 800 baby boxes being given out and parents’ use of the contents of these boxes will be monitored over the following 8 months.
It is important to point out that it is not possible for Baby Boxes to fully comply with certain safety standards. For an example, current British and EU safety standards for nursery furniture only exist for traditional cots and cribs etc. To read more about safety guidance for Baby Boxes.
Last words to a new mother!
“A baby does not choose to be born into any background or family. They don’t know whether you are rich or poor. You don’t want your kids to go without.
It is ultimately for the child and not for the parents, so regardless of their wealth every child deserves it. No-one is being singled out for their income and I think that’s really good.” (BBC News)
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