We often hear of new developments and advances in baby care, but equally often it is the tried and tested that is proven yet again to set the bench mark.
In the early part of the 20th century, Finland had one of the highest infant mortality rates in Europe, yet here we are at the start of the 21st century and they have one of the lowest.
One of the reasons for this change is the development of the ‘Baby Box’, originally given to low income families, to give them the basic clothes, and equipment, needed in the first few months after birth. Finland was a poor country and the baby box made an immediate impact on the lives of thousands of new born babies. Since the 1950’s the box was made available to all regardless of income, and it has become an established part of Finnish family life.
A prerequisite for getting the box was to visit a doctor, or pre-natal clinic before the fourth month of pregnancy, so not only did the box provide mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also ensured that pregnant women of all incomes were given appropriate advice and medical care if required.
Now the baby box is a tradition, and something that Finnish parents and their children are very proud of. The ‘Maternity package’ is described as a gift from the government, it is available to all expectant mothers and now includes:
- The box itself can be used as a cot, and includes a mattress, mattress cover, sheets and duvet cover.
- Cold weather clothing, including a snowsuit, mittens and booties.
- A range of clothes for warm and cold weather, hooded suit, romper suits, leggings, hats and socks.
- Bath Towel, bath thermometer, hairbrush, tooth brush.
- Reusable nappies, muslin squares, and nappy cream.
- And for the parents bra pads and condoms.
The style and colours are gender neutral, and change annually, so in some cases families reuse the same things when younger brothers or sisters are born. If you don’t want the box you can have a cash grant instead, but most choose the box as the contents would cost far more to buy than the cash grant.
An additional benefit of the maternity box being availability to all families is that it promotes the idea that no matter what background you come from you all have the same start, and whilst we might not all consider our newborn sleeping in a card board box, such is the popularity and pride in the Finnish Maternity Box, that parents of all backgrounds often use the cardboard box as it is intended.
The Evolution of the Baby Box
Whilst the financial need for the box may have diminished since its inception, there are still many reasons why Finnish parents appreciate the gift, and it serves to unite generations of parents with something that is unique to their country.
As you might expect, the contents of the box has evolved over time, with clothes and fabrics representing the materials and styles available at the time. In past versions the box contained materials for making clothes as well as pre made items, different swaddling materials, and paper bed sheets during WW2 as there was such a shortage of cotton sheets.
With the advent of disposable nappies, these too were included in the box, but they have now been replaced with cotton reusable nappies. Feeding bottles and dummies have also been removed to promote breast feeding. The box has always been used to promote good parenting, and currently also includes a picture book and a teething ring.
Finland now has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in Europe, and is also rated as having some of the happiest mums in the world! The baby box is credited with playing a good part in reaching the current levels of health and happiness.