This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, published April 3, 2017
I remember a few years ago learning about the Finnish baby box tradition. In case you're not familiar, here's what they do... In Finland, the government gives all new parents a big box full of the essentials they'll need for their newborn and the box itself is actually a safe space where their newborns can sleep. It's a tradition that goes back to the late 1930s when Finland was combatting a frighteningly high infant mortality rate (nearly one in 10 died within their first year of life) and since the government put the program in place, Finland now boasts the lowest cases of SIDS globally. In order for parents to get their box, moms must attend prenatal checkups as well as post-delivery doctor visits. Amazing, right?Well, this tradition is gaining momentum as states like NJ, Ohio and Alabama are providing boxes for new parents. But there's a big piece of the equation that is missing compared to what's provided in Finland. In the U.S. the boxes are pretty bare, only providing a sample of diapers, some wipes and a few other miscellaneous items, but no where close to what parents in Finland receive in their boxes. If we as a country and states are interested in replicating the Finnish program, we know that the items that come within the box are a crucial component and incentive for parents to attend the doctor visits.
Why are these baby boxes gaining more and more momentum? Because they are safe, affordable and portable places where babies can sleep safely. For instance, Finnbin, the only baby box made in the U.S.A. shared how their boxes marry with the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines:
- Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. (✔ The Finnbin comes with a sturdy sleeping pad and rests on the floor.)
- Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare. (✔ Since the Finnbinn doesn’t have a lot of extra room, parents aren’t compelled to add bumpers, blankets, or plush toys.)
- Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. (✔ The Finnbin provides a compact sleeping solution to keep your baby in your room, but not in your bed.)
- Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs. (Okay, obviously Finnbin can’t help you here.)
While the box is a safe place where the babies can sleep, a senior researcher with Finland’s Social Insurance Institution, Anita Haataja stated that a 2011 poll showed less than half of box recipients there — 42% — never used it as a place where babies sleep. Rather, it’s what comes in the box that lures pregnant women to the prenatal checkups, she said, which over decades helped healthier childcare practices become the norm in Finland.
As the co-founder of Finnbin, the only U.S.-based baby box company that truly adheres to the Finnish baby boxes, it's wonderful to see that baby boxes are gaining momentum in the States, however, we would like to see the Finnish tradition in completion available to all. There are huge social implications, beyond the ability to help combat SIDS, to providing new parents of all backgrounds with shared items and essentials, not just a box for their baby.