Newborn babies in Finland have been sleeping in cardboard boxes for over 75 years.
The boxes, which are given to each new mother by the Finnish government, are like a newborn starter kit: They contain clothing, a sleeping bag, bibs, cloth diapers, bathing products, and more.
The cardboard box that holds these items is also fitted with a small, firm mattress and a sheet — which allows it to serve as a safe place for the baby to sleep.
Finland now has of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world — and the country credits that achievement to these boxes.
The boxes provide a safe place for the baby to sleep, which helps lower the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
In Finland, it is mandatory for mothers to attend prenatal checkups in order to receive their free baby box. Using the box as an incentive, this encourages and improves maternal health and education nationwide, which also keeps more babies alive.
The US, on the other hand, has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.
Now, Finnish-inspired baby boxes are becoming popular in the United States.
California-based The Baby Box Co. sells boxes similar to the ones mothers in Finland receive.
“The baby box is a beautiful concept, but it’s not the box itself that has reduced infant mortality rates,” Jennifer Clary, CEO of The Baby Box Co., told Insider. “It’s the way [Finland] has used the baby box as an engagement tool to increase health care.”
Inspired by the Finnish practice, Clary launched “Baby Box University” to emphasise the importance of healthcare education, rather than solely focusing on selling the boxes. On this online education platform, pregnant woman can visit a healthcare provider in a community that supports Baby Box Co. for a standard prenatal appointment.
After women visit maternity doctors, take courses on caring for a baby, and complete a mandatory education syllabus, they can receive a free baby box.
This ensures that all parents receive the basic training necessary to keep their newborns safe and healthy.
Since January 2016, The Baby Box Co. has partnered with hospitals, government agencies, tribes, and non-profits in 20 U.S. states to provide free, culturally specific baby boxes to as many families as possible. The company is on track to have 1 million Baby Boxes in circulation through community initiatives by the end of 2016. Given the rate of interest, Clary expects to have approximately 5 million units in circulation by the end of 2017.
Programs like this have a strong potential to help decrease our nation’s high infant mortality rate.
Will the United States ever offer government funded boxes nationwide like Finland does? It’s hard to say, but Clary believes it could happen.
“We’ve had multiple states reach out about starting state-wide programs,” she told Insider. “Once you have momentum and the data to support your ideas, it becomes increasingly likely that it could become a federal initiative. If we prove this can work in America, it is a possibility.”
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