What’s All the Fuss About Finnish Baby Boxes in the UK?
April 16 2018
Baby boxes were first introduced by Finland’s government in 1938 as a way to combat the country’s infant mortality rates which, at the time, were very high. In the 30s, baby boxes were originally given to lower income families as part of the Maternity Grants Act – around two thirds of expectant mothers in the population that year. The boxes contained a few essential supplies, along with clothing and a mattress for the baby’s first bed.
In 1949, the Finnish government expanded the scheme to encompass all expectant mothers, regardless of means. Now, 80 years since the scheme was first launched, it’s still a core part of Finnish state welfare. Mothers are allowed to choose between the box and a €140 grant, but the vast majority choose the box, which, with all its contents, is worth around €400.
A standard Finnish baby box contains items like:
The Finnish baby box is highly praised for what it symbolises as much as what it contains. Being freely available to all expectant mothers, it’s seen as symbolising that all newborn life is equal, and it shows the commitment that the Finnish government has to infant care.
In a very practical way, the box also encourages new mothers to actively engage in their child’s welfare. The one requirement that mothers must meet to receive a box is to visit a doctor or an antenatal centre before their fourth month of pregnancy. This means that the medical system is given as much chance as possible to find problems that may develop, and it also encourages expectant mothers to lean on the support of the healthcare system as much as possible.
The box has also been praised for effectively encouraging new behaviours as they’ve been recognised as beneficial. For example, including the appropriate bedding to turn the box into a first cot was a way to encourage mothers to stop sleeping in the same bed as their child, something that’s known to lead to infant deaths.
More recently, the Finnish government removed dummies and milk bottles from the box, with the aim of encouraging mothers to breastfeed more – the initiative succeeded. In this way, the government has been able to use the boxes as a non-intrusive way of bringing the latest scientific guidance into homes, to the benefit of both the baby and its parents. Infant mortality in Finland has declined steadily since the 30s, and is now down to just 2 deaths per 1000 births.
Unsurprisingly, the idea of a baby box has captured the attention of many different countries, including the UK. British interest was especially piqued when the Finnish government sent Princess Kate a baby box during her first pregnancy.
In 2017, a scheme was started by the Scottish government to give all Scottish mothers a baby box, containing items like clothing, a bath towel, a changing mat and books. However, despite the Scottish rollout, there’s been no move to implement the same kind of scheme south of the border. Instead, some individual NHS trusts have partnered with businesses like the Baby Box Co. to provide a baby box, free of charge, to expectant mothers in their care.
The effects of this scheme aren’t as far reaching as the Finnish or even Scottish versions, but in those local areas it still encourages expectant mothers to receive healthcare in order to receive the box, and allows hospitals to keep a close eye on how effective the scheme can be. If you want to know if you’re eligible for a box, you’ll have to ask your local trust.
Alternatively, there are websites where you can buy a baby box for yourself, though it won’t be free! This can still be beneficial if you want to receive a handy package with everything your new baby needs, coming in the incredibly convenient packaging of a single cardboard box!