“Nanny state” is usually used as a derogatory term, but in Finland they take it literally. The results have benefited parents and newborn babies tremendously! Meet Finland’s baby box.
Seventy-five years ago, Finland began giving new families in need a baby box: a cardboard box full of supplies to help them care for their newborn baby. Think of it as a parenthood starter kit. The box contains clothing (including cold-weather clothes, like a snowsuit); baby toiletries, like nail clippers and a bath towel; cloth diapers; a baby book and teething rings; and nursing pads and condoms for mom and dad.
The coolest part? Not only is the box full of goodies, but the box itself has a soft mattress inside, so parents can use it as a safe bassinet for their newborns.
Back in 1938 when the program started, Finland had an infant mortality rate of 65 out of 1,000 babies. That was quite high, even for the late 30s. After introducing the baby box, rates began dropping so dramatically that in 1949 the Finnish government expanded the program to include all new parents. Their infant mortality rate now is 3.4 out of 1,000, one of the lowest in the world.
To put that in perspective, the U.S. has an infant mortality rate today of 5.98 out of 1,000, over 1 1/2 times that of Finland.
I just had my first child three months ago, and as a new mom I have to tell you that a box like this would have been amazing. It’s not that we can’t afford to clothe our baby or diaper him, but the baby box does more than provide supplies. It gives a jumping-off point and helps Finnish parents form good habits right from their child’s infancy.
When you head home from the hospital after 2-5 days with a newborn, it’s terrifying. They just let you leave with this tiny, helpless little human and very little information on how to care for him. The baby box takes out some of that guesswork.
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That the box turns into a bed is what strikes me the most about this program. I’m a sucker for functional packaging, of course, but the box also provides a safe sleeping space for a child, which a lot of experts believe is key to reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Panu Pulma, professor in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki told BBC News:
“Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop. Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them.”
I know, cosleeping advocates are going to chime in here and say that cosleeping is safe if you do it properly, and I completely agree. Our baby slept in the bed with us for the first month or so. But there is evidence that cosleeping is linked to a higher incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). For parents that aren’t educated about how to safely share a bed with an infant, it’s probably safer for that child to sleep in a bassinet instead of in the bed.
If new parents prefer not to receive the baby box, they can opt out and get 140 euros instead, but the box and its contents are worth a lot more than 140 euros.
What do you guys think about the baby box? Parents, would you have taken the box or the cash?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by comedynose