It's a starter kit that includes bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the child, diapers, bedding and a small mattress.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 6, 2022. It has since been updated.
A newborn baby is typically associated with a lot of expenses; from a crib, clothes, diapers and shoes to many other things. Aware of the burden this places on new parents, Finland's government makes sure to give a baby box to all expectant mothers. And the best part is that it is a tradition that they have been following for the last 84 years, as reported by BBC.
In Finland, babies sleep in cardboard boxes. Mothers are given starter kits from the state filled with clothes, sheets, toys, and a mattress to place in the box. It’s a tradition from the 1930s, designed to give all Finnish children an equal start in life. 👶🏻#FactManiac pic.twitter.com/mYvgdVzYV3— Fact Maniac (@factmaniac) August 30, 2018
It's apparently a starter kit that includes bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the infant, diapers, bedding and a small mattress. With the mattress in the bottom, this box also becomes the baby's first bed. Many young Finns have their first naps in these boxes irrespective of their social background.
Mothers are given the choice between taking the box or opting for a cash grant of 140 euros (approximately $147). It is reported that 95% of mothers go for a box as it is much more valuable than the amount they'd receive if they chose the grant.
The #Finnish maternity package, aka baby box: a benefit distributed to all mothers since 1938, containing a total of 40-50 products. In addition to adorable baby items, it's about public health; the intention is to help get the family off to a good start. 👶🍼 pic.twitter.com/BuiWFd6gfW— thisisFINLAND (@thisisFINLAND) May 19, 2022
The wholesome tradition of the baby box was reportedly started by the government in 1938. At the time, it was a scheme that was only intended to help low-income families. However, it was later expanded in 1949 when the far-reaching benefits of these boxes became evident.
"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," explained Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
Every child deserves an #equal start to life. For over 80 years the #Finnish government has given every expecting mother a #maternity box. So justice is served when Minister @HMcEntee gets her own Finnish maternity box😊#equality #babybox #innovation @KelaFpa @Ulkoministerio pic.twitter.com/OgjWLNUEvL— Raili Lahnalampi (@RLahnalampi) April 19, 2021
In the 1930s, Finland was a poor country and the infant mortality rate was quite high with 65 out of every 1000 babies dying. However, the numbers improved drastically in the decades after that. Mike Gissler, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, believes that this improvement was the effect of the maternity box and pre-natal care for all women in the 1940s, followed by the national health insurance system and the central hospital network in the 1960s.
The Washington Post reported in March 2022 that Finland has been identified as the happiest country in the world for the fifth year in a row by the United Nations-sponsored World Happiness Report. Liisi Hatinen, a communications coordinator in Espoo, a city outside of Helsinki, and a mother of two shared that "everybody has access to the basics" which includes guaranteed health care, tuition-free school, a living wage, and affordable housing. She added, "These programs are well thought out and work, so that’s the basic foundation for you to be happy.”
Moreover, they have a good work-life balance. Jukka Multisilta, a strategy consultant in Helsinki said, "We get five weeks' vacation."
Baby in a box? The #Finnish solution for new mothers & babies - 80 years on #babybox @OlgaTars #Kela pic.twitter.com/VUyLFLh8sy— Rebecca Greig (@bloodsweattweet) February 7, 2017
Finns also credit the opportunities available to women in their country. "I really think that the position of women is a big thing in our happiness. Have you seen our government? We have a woman prime minister. She’s  years old. Then we have four other main ministers who are also young women. So it’s pretty big girl power,” said Johanna Ovaska, a principal at the middle school in Imatra and mother of two.
It also helps that the Finnish government supports motherhood. A woman can take up to three years of maternity leave and for daycare, Finland provides "free universal daycare from 8 months to the start of formal education at age seven."