What's there to debate about the Finnish Baby Box?

When I was asked to write a blog about the Finnish baby box, you can imagine that as a young male student intern, I'm without a doubt the most knowledgeable when it comes to babies and baby boxes! (insert sarcasm)

Therefore, I thought to myself what should I do. I decided to call the best expert I know when it comes to babies and these boxes. I called my mum.

My mum told me that she got the baby box when she was on her fifth month expecting me. She can't exactly remember what the box contained, but remembers that there was a lot of stuff! She mentioned clothes, diapers, baby bottle and the box itself, which apparently was my first bed. She claimed it felt like Christmas. She also remembers saying out loud when she had opened the box ''wow I'm really becoming a mum''.

Baby Box Emoji
So the baby box is a box filled with free goodies for the new-to-be parents. I was intrigued to learn more about this box. What's its history and what does it contain nowadays?

The history of the baby box, also known as the maternity package, started in the 1930's. Back then Finland wasn't yet the welfare country as it is known today, but the seeds for it had already been planted.

The maternity package was a basket filled with reusable cloths, which was given to mothers in need by an advocacy group called Mannerheim's Child Welfare Society. This idea was soon taken up by the politicians and in 1938 the first maternity packages were provided by the state. At first, they were intended only for low-income mothers, but only ten years later the box became available to all Finnish mothers.

The maternity box gave parents what they needed to survive the first months when taking care of their newborn. It also encouraged pregnant women to visit a doctor during their pregnancy. Because a visit to the doctor before the fifth month of pregnancy was required in order to receive the box. 

In the 1930s Finland had a high infant mortality. During the decades to follow the infant mortality rates dropped. But, the baby box as such hasn't decreased infant mortality in Finland. Rather, it has been improving of the Finnish healthcare system of which the maternity box is a part of. A box itself won't solve high rates of infant mortality, but can be a part of the solution.

Nowadays almost all first-time mothers choose the maternity package and no wonder why! The box contains around 50 different items, which are crucial for newborn's parents. It contains clothes as well as child care products and materials. It's updated yearly in response to feedback from parents. 

The baby box is provided by the Finnish state therefore it can't be bought. However, there are commercially produced equivalents available around the world. Only a few people who are not living in Finland or aren't covered by the Finnish social security system have received the baby box. 

Maybe the best known are Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge in 2013 and Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden in 2012 as a gift from the Finnish government. In Finland we don't have any royalties; instead we have baby boxes, which are good enough for even small princes and princesses!

Author: Jon Järviniemi is an Intern at the Embassy of Finland in Canberra. 


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