Since the 1940s, every pregnant woman in Finland has been gifted a baby box by the government. All she has to do in return is attend a prenatal clinic before her fourth month of pregnancy. The boxes contain about 50 items of baby gear, including a snowsuit, socks, diapers, a bath towel, a thermometer, a picture book and (for the parents) a pack of condoms. Once the items are taken out, the box can be used as a bassinet.
The baby box program was begun as an attempt to reduce Finland’s once-high infant mortality rate. In the 1930s, about 65 out of every 1,000 Finnish babies died in their first year. Poor families didn’t have money for proper clothes, and many parents slept in bed with their infants, a risk factor for SIDS. The box was meant to provide all Finnish babies with an equal start, including a safe separate sleeping space. Today, Finland’s infant mortality rate is about 2.5 babies per 1,000, one of the lowest rates in the world.
Lately, the baby box has been catching on in countries far from Finland. Some public health experts see it as a way to reduce the SIDS rate, others are skeptical, while an increasing number of parents simply appreciate its low cost and portability.
Starting last year, Scotland is offering free baby boxes to all new parents. The boxes contain baby care items similar to those that come in the Finnish boxes. From England to Canada to India, a number of hospitals and municipalities have begun offering free baby boxes as well. There are also various public health projects in the works to bring baby boxes to disadvantaged mothers in the developing world, including Barakat Bundle, a baby box full of items specifically useful in a South Asian context, including a clean delivery kit, and South Africa’s Thula Baba Box.
In the U.S., three states—Ohio, New Jersey and Alabama—have recently started offering baby boxes to parents of all newborns, in exchange for completing some online educational materials about safe sleep. The boxes are provided by Baby Box Co, a California-based company that offers its own take on the Finnish baby box. It also sells boxes directly to the public, as do a number of other recently launched companies from the U.S. to France to Australia.
Below you will find a video of unboxing Finnish Baby Box.