The tradition dating back to the 1930s has drastically improved infant mortality rates in the country.
For expectant moms and dads in Finland, the country's iconic baby box represents a rite of passage into parenthood. The starter kit plays a key role in helping them prepare for their child by eliminating the stress of arranging everything necessary to care for the baby. Stuffed with over 60 essential baby care items, from clothes and blankets to a box that also serves as a crib, the Finnish government has been sending out these maternity boxes to moms-to-be for an impressive 82 years now. Moreover, the tradition that dates back to the 1930s has drastically improved infant mortality rates in the country.
According to BBC, the Finnish government first introduced the maternity scheme for low-income families in 1938. Realizing the far-reaching benefits of these boxes, it was later expanded in 1949 to include all expectant parents irrespective of their financial backgrounds. "Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy," revealed Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela—the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
'In the 1930s Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high - 65 out of 1,000 babies died. But the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed.'https://t.co/soL6JhJZDD— Burkhard Maria Zimmermann (@bmzimmermann) March 1, 2020
By doing so, the Finnish government steered pregnant women towards seekings out prenatal care. The lure worked and soon maternity exams became commonplace for moms which ultimately did wonders in bringing down its infant mortality rates. According to Business Insider, today Finland's under-five child mortality rate is 1.7 per 1,000 live birth—the lowest in the world. Over the course of eight decades, Finland's baby boxes have become an iconic part of parenthood for its citizens, uniting generations of mothers.
We should have baby boxes in Pennsylvania: Finland's under-five child mortality rate is 1.7 per 1,000 live births — the lowest in the world. Pennsylvania's is 6.9. https://t.co/A4Zfb0ILua— Rep. Sara Innamorato (@RepInnamorato) February 25, 2020
Reija Klemetti, a 49-year-old from Helsinki, still remembers going to the post office to collect a box for one of her six children. "It was lovely and exciting to get it and somehow the first promise to the baby. My mum, friends, and relatives were all eager to see what kind of things were inside and what colors they'd chosen for that year," she reminisced. Klemetti's daughter Solja—a mother-of-two herself now—too experienced the same excitement as her mother when she took possession of the "first substantial thing" prior to the baby itself.
'Every child is equal': How Finland's baby boxes changed childhood https://t.co/lgW6Q1arWo— The Independent (@Independent) October 18, 2016
While for some families, the baby boxes alleviate the financial burden of buying baby care supplies, for some it's more about saving time. Titta Vayrynen, the mother of two young boys, was working long hours when pregnant with her first child and was relieved to have been spared the effort of comparing prices and going out shopping. "There was a recent report saying that Finnish mums are the happiest in the world, and the box was one thing that came to my mind. We are very well taken care of, even now when some public services have been cut down a little," she said. According to Kela, while mothers can also opt for a tax-free cash benefit of €170 instead of the boxes, only a third of all expecting mothers opt for the cash benefit.
With Finland's baby boxes gaining worldwide attention, expectant parents across the globe have expressed interest in them. Taking heed, three fathers in Finland set up the Finnish Baby Box—a business to supply boxes to customers all over the world. Talking to Bored Panda about what inspired them to launch the business, Heikki Tiittanen, one of the founders of the Finnish Baby Box, said, "Probably not surprising, but the inspiration to create the Finnish Baby Box was simply our own experience when expecting our first babies. We received the baby box provided by the Finnish government and felt such great relief. Especially to me, as a soon-to-be-father seeing all the baby clothing and accessories on our floor was truly the moment when I realized that there will be a baby moving in shortly."
"Mothers experience the baby every day, but for fathers, there is no similar experience when expecting. The baby box somehow made it so much more real for me. Also, as first-time parents, we didn’t have a clue what was needed for the baby. It helped us tremendously to get a starter pack with everything useful and necessary already in it. We truly felt that we were much better prepared for the baby—both mentally and materially," he added. Tiittanen revealed that although more countries have expressed interest in adopting the scheme, it has mostly been in limited capacities. "Unfortunately, the reason is money. The baby box program, including a full set of essential baby products, is not cheap to provide and, therefore, the idea has not been realized in most of the countries," he explained.
He continued: "However, now that many countries are seeing their birth rates dropping, interest towards supporting families with young children has definitely increased. In some countries, it is actually not a state level, but a municipality level thing, which is much more independent and agile enough to start these types of programs. We, for example, help municipalities and other organizations run their own baby box programs. I believe that these types of smaller-scale and localized endeavors will become more common in the coming years."