So you’ve spent hours of research and a considerable sum sourcing the perfect crib or moses basket to ensure hours of peaceful slumber for your new arrival. You’re proudly showing it off when suddenly Great Aunt Mabel pipes up: ‘In my day we used to put babies in the bottom drawer of the dresser!’ At this point the temptation to shove Great Aunt Mabel inside the nearest wardrobe and turn the key may be strong, but resist just a moment as you ponder the fact that in a European country just across the North Sea, newborns routinely spend their first eight months sleeping soundly in a cardboard box.
Say hello to the Finnish Birth Box. Essentially a sturdy cardboard box filled with baby essentials, this tradition began in Finland in the 1930s in response to high infant mortality rates and levels of poverty. At first it was available only to low income families, but in 1949 the scheme was rolled out to all families and ever since then the Finnish State offers a baby box to each and every expectant mother.
The contents have of course changed over time. To begin with fabric and wool were provided as it was customary for mothers to make clothes for their babies. These days the boxes are a complete kit to see mother and baby through the tricky first months. Babygros, romper suits and snowsuits nestle alongside nappies, creams, muslin squares and bra pads. There are even picture books and teething toys to help stimulate your infant.
Most important of all however, is the foam mattress which fits snugly into the bottom of the box, instantly turning it into a portable and compact crib for baby – a cost effective alternative to a moses basket.
The box scheme has been heralded a huge success. Since its introduction, mortality rates in Finland have lowered significantly. In 1938 there were 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births while in 2015 this statistic had dropped to just over 2 deaths per 1,000 births. Experts believe this is due to the fact that it gives people an alternative to co-sleeping in bed with baby, sees them generally well-equipped to cope with the tricky first post-natal months and also pushes mothers gently into the arms of health professionals who can monitor their pregnancy properly as in order to qualify for a box you must agree to attend a key pre-natal appointment.
As is the case with all great ideas, the Baby Box is making its way to our shores. In April this year a pilot box scheme was launched at London’s Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital in collaboration with the US company Baby Box Co. The project is aimed at dramatically cutting cot death rates in the UK. It’s believed the smaller dimensions of the box restrict babies from turning onto their tummies. They also mean more parents can place baby near their bed rather than in bed with them.
It is now possible to purchase boxes directly through sites like www.britishbabybox.com and www.thebabybox.com. They make ideal babyshower gifts and whether you choose the snooze-in-a-box option or not, the wealth of products will always make them a welcome gift. Just ask HRH Prince William and his lovely wife Kate. The Finnish government sent the couple a box for Prince George. And what’s good enough for the Cambridges is good enough for us.