Finnish babies start life in cardboard box

By Efrosini Costa

Finnish babies start life in cardboard box
Children born in Finland over the last 75 years have all started their lives the same way - in a cardboard box.

While the idea of using a cardboard box to house a newborn may at first seem peculiar, the practice has been attributed to helping the European country achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

Since the 1930’s, the Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a maternity pack in the shape of a box – a gift from the government  – that includes all manner of baby essentials.

The tradition is designed to ensure that all Finnish children are given an equal start, regardless of their differences.

Originally the box was designed for women from low-income families but was then changes to include all expectant mothers. Seventy-five years later the box has become an established part of the finish rite of passage to motherhood and served to unite Finish women across all backgrounds and generations.

Conjured to help the country tackle high infant mortality – when 65 out of 1,000 babies born in the 1930’s died – the service has also helped to steer women towards the state’s pre-natal care and encouraged good parenting.

“Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy,” Heidi Liesivesi, a spokesperson for the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, told reporters.

Clothes, sheets, sleeping bag, bathroom accessories, toys, books and even bra pads and condoms are all part and parcel of the welcoming gift for the new mother and her child. Complete with a mattress in the bottom, the box also doubles as a cot – developed to encourage babies to sleep separately from their parents.

While mother’s can opt between the box or a cash grant of 140 euros – 95 per cent choose the box as it’s total value is worth much more to them.

The contents of the baby box have changed considerably over the years – reflecting changes in the times. But they have also mirrored broader policy changes. While disposable nappies were introduced at one stage, the turn of the century’s environmental concerns saw them quickly fall out of favour. Dummies and bottles were also removed from the boxes at one point to encourage mothers to breastfeed.

Regardless of the changes over the years oen thing has remained the same, the boxes have all served as a symbol of equality, and helped to encourage the highest levels of health care for mothers and their babies.

Today’s Finnish baby boxes contain:

  • Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
  • Box itself doubles as a crib
  • Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
  • Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
  • Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
  • Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colours and patterns
  • Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth
  • Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
  • Picture book and teething toy
  • Bra pads, condoms

 Do you think like Finland’s baby box tradition? Would you like to see a similar policy in place where you live? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


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