Three years ago, this story about a Finnish tradition of mothers being provided with a ‘starter kit’ baby box by the state which was to be used as a bed to sleep in went viral, as it was claimed that sleeping in a box led to the country having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
The Finnish infant mortality rate currently stands at 3.36 per thousand births, much lower than the likes of 4.44 in the UK, 6.17 in the US and 43.19 in India.
The tradition dates back to the 1930s, and the box contains basic supplies such as bibs, nappies, a sleeping bag, bathing products, and of most interest to us at Sleepy People, a tiny mattress!
Among the more famous recipients of one of the baby boxes were everybody’s favourite royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, back when Kate was carrying Prince George.
Around the world
The baby box has proved so popular that three entrepreneurial fathers from Finland have set up their own Finnish Baby Box company, sending the kits around the world.
And the idea has now gone global, with a British version setting up last year.
- In South Africa the ‘Thula Baba Box’ has proved particularly popular, where large numbers of HIV-positive mothers either die in childbirth or pass the disease onto their children.
- In South Asia, the ‘Bakarat Bundle’ provides mums with clean-birth kit which protects from infection soon after birth and a mosquito net to protect against malaria.
- There are dozens of similar projects underway in the USA, with Fort Worth in Texas handing the boxes out in all four of their hospitals.
- Projects are also underway in Victoria in Australia and Alberta in Canada. In these areas the aim is less about preventing deaths and more about transitioning into life with a baby.
The Finnish government is aware of how well the idea has taken off across the globe and they are working with other countries and gives presentations on how best to implement the boxes.
Why so popular?
So why exactly is this box so popular, and why is it having such an impact on baby’s health?
Obviously the contents of the box are designed to be helpful to whichever country it is being sent to, so could contain medicines to prevent local infections.
They are also made available to everyone, regardless of income, and so can provide access to a lot of essential supplies that some mothers might otherwise miss out on.
Also, having the baby sleep in the box, away from its mother allows the baby to develop its own independent and healthy sleep pattern.
But perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the box is that as a condition of receiving it, mothers must attend a pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy.
Encouraging mothers to attend these clinics has undoubtedly contributed to the incredible drop in infant mortality from 65 in the 1930s to 3.36 nowadays.
While infant mortality is thankfully not so much of an issue here in the UK, the boxes could bring a range of benefits, and a pilot project is being launched this month at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London.
600 boxes will be given to women who give birth there over the next couple of months, following in the footsteps of similar successful trials in the US, Canada, Australia and around the world.
However, there has been some criticism of the boxes with some arguing that other than giving the baby somewhere to sleep outside their parents bed, the impact is marginal.
But here at Sleepy People, home to some of the UK’s finest branded bedding, pillows, duvets and mattress toppers, we think that anything that can help our little ones get off to sleep that little bit easier can surely only be a good thing!