Finland started giving out to parents of newborns for free?
They’re boxes with basically everything you need to keep an infant alive, healthy, and happy:clothes, a towel, a quilt, diapers, bibs, a book, a toy. The kit even comes with a mattress, so the box itself can be used as the baby’s first crib.
For over 75 years, Finland’s baby boxes have helped the country achieve one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. In 2016, the tradition is coming to Canada. Since its introduction in the late 1930s, the country has seen the infant mortality rate plummet, something experts partly attribute to the box. (National health care and a centralized hospital system played a role, too.) It’s one of those genius but simple ideas that can really improve and even save lives.
The tradition began in 1938 as a way to give all Finnish babies an equal start in life. The baby boxes were given by the government to low-income families and new mothers had to visit their doctor before the fourth month of pregnancy in order to receive one.
The maternity box is essentially a care package given to every new mother in Finland. The cardboard box contains all the supplies a new parent would need, including clothes, diapers and toys. The box itself even comes complete with a built-in mattress, so that it can be used as the baby’s first bed.
Since the program began, Finland’s infant mortality rate has significantly decreased from 10 per cent of babies dying before the age of one to just 0.3 per cent. As a result, Finland has inspired more than 30 countries to adopt a similar program, including Canada.
Now Canada is picking up on the trend too
The University of Calgary is launching a study to see if new parents in Alberta could also benefit from these “baby starter kits.”
The study is part of the University of Calgary’s Welcome to Parenthood program, which has previously offered parent coaching and parenthood packages, including a guidebook and a dry-erase board for parents to list the help they need.
Here’s how the study works: New moms will pick up the baby boxes from Parent Link Centers a couple months before their due date. While they’re there, they’ll also fill out a questionnaire and get connected with another parent mentor in their community. Researchers will follow up with the new parents after they give birth to see how they’re adjusting to life with a baby.
Now, with the support of grants, a new program called “Welcome to Parenthood” will be distributing 1,500 baby boxes to Canadian parents starting January 2016.
Karen Benzies, the lead researcher for the study, told the Calgary Herald that they hope the boxes and mentorship will help parents gain their footing during a time of transition. “You’re going to be successful, but every parent needs a little help,” she said.
The initiative came about after Jennifer Clary, co-founder of The Baby Box Co., the first company to make baby boxes outside of Europe, teamed up with the Alberta Government and University of Calgary. While the company commercially sells different versions of the baby box, they also work with governments and non-profit organizations to customize packages for different communities.
“We’re using the basic baby box, with the mattress, and we’ve collaborated with the province on some basic additions,” says Jennifer Weber, Government of Alberta’s senior manager of Early Childhood Development Services.
The period shortly after birth can feel lonely for new parents
New babies require a lot of attention, and it can be overwhelming and isolating to suddenly be responsible for another human life. Particularly for moms struggling with postpartum depression, a support system (like the baby box) could be super valuable during this time.
Besides the mattress, Canada’s baby boxes will include onesies, breast pads and plush toys. Additionally, in their package, new parents will also receive an online video program of experts answering baby questions.
Canada’s baby box isn’t just going to be a huge help to parents, either
Researchers think that having better access to parenting resources will help the kids themselves in early childhood, too.
According to data from World Bank, Canada’s infant mortality rate is quite low at 4 deaths per thousand births. Despite this, Weber says the maternity boxes are still needed in the country.
Plus, the boxes could be coming to the U.S. soon, too
They’re such a good idea that a U.S.-based baby box mission is headed to Texas in the form of a pilot study,according to WFAA. And even though the U.S. doesn’t offer free baby boxes to most new parents just yet, you can also purchase your very own right here.
“We know Canada’s doing very well, but Canadians still have parenting issues that are unique to us,” she said. “We have vulnerable families and many communities with their own particular needs. We have teen moms, single parents, families in temporary accommodation.”
According to Weber, Canada’s maternity box is currently still in the testing stage and will only be available in Alberta in 2016. The hope is to have widespread distribution as soon as possible, but that is likely a long way off.
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