Another Nation Is Giving New Parents Free Baby Supplies

Finland’s ‘baby box’ idea seems to be catching on.
(Photo: Taylor S. Kennedy/Getty Images)
Apr 18, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

In 2013, as the United Kingdom celebrated the birth of Prince George, gifts from heads of state for the royal baby poured in from around the world. But there was one present that caught the attention of the international media: a cardboard “baby box” sent to George’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, from Finland’s government.

The package—about 50 items, such as onesies, bibs, bedding, socks, and baby’s first book—has been distributed to new moms in Finland since 1938. The practice has been widely credited with reducing infant mortality in the Nordic nation. Although the British royal family likely didn’t need such supplies, plenty of impoverished parents do. So in the hope of boosting child welfare, Scotland now plans to distribute the boxes.

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“The baby box is such a simple idea but has been proven to have a real impact, reducing child mortality and helping families at the start of a child’s life,” First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon told the Sunday Mail.

In Finland, if a family couldn’t afford a bassinet or crib, the infant could safely sleep in the box itself. Now it’s become tradition for even babies in well-off families to sleep in their boxes for the first few months. Sudden infant death syndrome was contributing to Finland’s high rate of infant mortality—10 percent of children there once died before reaching their first birthdays. Now it’s down to 0.2 per cent, according to The Guardian.

About 0.37 percent of infants die from crib death in Scotland. Sturgeon sees the box as not just a means of lowering that number, but also as a tool to boost the overall welfare of Scottish kids. According to a study released last year, 1 in 10 Scots live in severe poverty.

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“By providing every newborn with a baby box, we can help child health—and by providing greater support to new families, we will also help to tackle child poverty and improve the chances of some of our most deprived children,” said Sturgeon.

Given that perspective, it seems a baby box could be useful in the United States as well. Roughly 22 percent of American children live in poverty. But given that politicians in the U.S. are wrangling over giving minimum-wage-earning moms and dads diapers and parental leave, the chances of the government distributing free boxes of baby supplies seem slim.