Before 1938, Finland had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the Western world, with 65/1,000 children . In 1938 the government decided to respond to this by starting to give out baby boxes to expectant mothers. Only the poorer mothers (about 60%) were allowed the box then. It was intended to give all children an equal start.
In 1938, the box contained bathing supplies, cloth for making clothes ( most women at the time having plenty of experience clothing), toys, reusable nappies and a mattress. The mattress could be used to turn the box into a cot. At the time there were with parents making The baby in the bed as them. Having the box for the to sleep in helped injuries sleeping babies. The mortality dramatically fell even in 1938.
During WWII, finer cloths like plain weave cotton and flannel were needed for the Defence Ministry, so some mothers got paper bed sheets and swaddling cloth. Even though many families were made homeless by bombing they were still able to look after their infants as the boxes were still provided.
In 1949, all mothers became eligible to the scheme, not just the poorest. This was when the legislation about visiting clinics was introduced. Not only did this ensure mothers had the necessary supplies to look after newborns, but ensured that the mother and child’s health were both being looked after by a doctor.
In the 50s, cloths started to be replaced by ready made baby clothes, which further helped time-pushed mothers. In 1957 they were completely replaced.
In 1968 a sleeping bag was introduced along with disposable nappies.
In 2006, cloth nappies replaced disposable ones again, due to environmental concern. Bottles and dummies have also been removed over time to encourage breast feeding, which is better both for the mother and the baby. The picture book included is to help encourage parents to get their children reading from a young age, as well as to occupy potentially noisy small children.
Mothers have a choice between taking the box or a cash grant. The grant is worth 140 Euros. 95% opt for the box as the contents are considerably more valuable. Some mothers will opt for the box for the first child and reuse its contents for a second child and take the cash grant afterwards. Mothers are only eligible for the box if they head to a clinic within the first 4 months of their pregnancy to check the health of the baby.
Mothers can become very excited to get their box as it’s almost a rite of passage to becoming a mum. It is particularly helpful to new mothers who may not know what they will need and will not know so well how to make the free time (admittedly a small amount of time with a newborn) to buy supplies otherwise. Some families would not be able to afford the baby supplies otherwise. Finnish mothers are the happiest in the world- possibly because they don’t have to panic over getting all the supplies, or because they have significant support with raising their children.
The age of a box can be identified by the clothing it contains. The government selects a new assortment of clothes each year.
Finland now has a very low infant mortality rate of around 2/1000 children.
The box now contains:
- Mattress cover
- Duvet cover
- Sleeping bag or Quilt
- Cot (ie the box itself)
- Clothes for outdoor cold weather
- Socks, hat and balaclava
- Various assortments of gender-neutrally coloured baby clothes
- Bath Towel
- Nail Scissors
- Hair Brush
- Tooth brush
- Bath Thermometer,
- Nappy Cream
- Wash cloth
- Reusable nappies
- Muslin cloth squares
- Picture book
- Teething toy
- (For the parents) Bra pads and condoms.