The Finnish Baby Box for reduction in Infant mortality rates

By Shubhangi Patil

As human population expands, new strategies to make maternal and neonatal health more cohesive are on demand. No country is exclusive to affordability and cost effectiveness at this stage of ones life, but The Finnish Baby Box is a ground breaking invention which will going to change the life of many expecting parents in the years to come in any country of the world, if adopted the Finland’s model.

For more than 80 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a Baby Box by the state that serves as a starter kit for their new baby. It contains clothes and other newborn necessities, and the Baby Box itself is lined with a mattress–is used as the child’s first bed.

Baby-Box-300x239 The Finnish Baby Box for reduction in Infant mortality rates
Finnish Baby Box

This carfully designed box has enabled Finland to achieve lowest infant mortality rates in the world. The initiative, which enables every expecting woman in the country to claim a free Baby Box once she receives prenatal care and parenting information from a healthcare professional.

The tradition of keeping the box, dates back to 1938. In the 1930s, Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high, but the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed. The contents of the Baby Box have changed a good deal over the years, reflecting changing times. During the ’30s and ’40s, it contained fabric because mothers were accustomed to making the baby’s clothes, but the fabric was replaced by ready-made clothes in the ’50s. But during World War II, flannel and plain-weave cotton were needed by the Defence Ministry, so some of the material was replaced by paper bed sheets and swaddling cloth.

Baby-Box-300x239 The Finnish Baby Box for reduction in Infant mortality rates
Photo Courtesy: BBC

The 50s saw an increase in the number of ready-made clothes, and in the 60s and 70s these began to be made from new stretchy fabrics. In 1968 a sleeping bag appeared, and the following year disposable nappies featured for the first time.

Not for long. At the turn of the century, the cloth nappies were back in and the disposable variety were out, having fallen out of favour on environmental grounds.

Contents of the box

  • Mattress, mattress cover, under sheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
  • Box itself doubles as a crib
  • Snowsuit, hat, insulated, mittens and booties
  • Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
  • Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
  • Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colors and patterns
  • Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, washcloth
  • Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
  • Picture book and teething toy

Encouraging good parenting has been part of the maternity box policy all along. Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them.

Baby-Box-300x239 The Finnish Baby Box for reduction in Infant mortality rates
Pic Courtesy: Baby Box Moomin

One of the main goals of the whole system was to get women to breastfeed more and it happened! Including a picture book has had a positive effect, encouraging children to handle books, and, one day, to read.And in addition to all this, the box is a symbol of equality and of the importance of children.

India and other countries in a similar fashion are trying to design such box, but still have to do much keeping in mind the present model and in accordance to cost-effectiveness , affordability , accessibility and climatic conditions.

Agencies like UNICEF and WHO can go a step ahead by setting down guidelines on modifications of the box pertaining to each country and territory. So far it’s been one of the best way in reduction of infant mortality rates and increasing the bond and safety of maternal and newborn care – Happy parenting.