Finnish Babies Sleep in Boxes: Method in the Madness
It’s not a story about homeless children; in fact it’s one of the most positive attributes of the Finnish health care system. For the past 75 years the Finnish state has given soon-to-be mums a “starter kit” of what they’re going to need for their babies: things like bodysuits, outdoor clothes, bathing products, nappies, bedding and a small mattress. Even during the war when the country needed all the material it could get its hands on, mothers could still receive their boxes.
Having a baby is expensive, we’ve all been told that enough, but isn’t it incredible that the Finnish state helps every mother, regardless of wealth or social standing, to help her start her baby’s life well.
All the mothers’ have to do is pop the mattress in the bottom of the box and it becomes an ideal safe spot for baby to have its first naps. It might sound simple, but it’s an incredibly good solution to many problems. For example, when it was first suggested that baby shouldn’t sleep in its parent’s bed, women initially wondered, and worried, about where baby would sleep, especially since they still wanted their new born close to them. And so the box developed another use: as a first bed.
Today, mothers have a choice between the box or a grant of 140 euros, with 95% opting to take the box, for its practical value – and the fact that it’s worth much more than the grant is in the long run.
Initially it was only for mothers on low income, but this changed in 1949 when the box became a tool to encourage mothers to go to antenatal classes, and receive antenatal care. In the 1930’s Finland was considered to have a relatively high infant mortality rate for a Western country, but partly due to the box, and to the developing state sponsored health care system, this declined rapidly in the years that followed.
This has developed into a sort of right of passage for Finnish women: it’s something they look forward to, enjoy and will always remember. Every year the contents of the box change slightly, with the colours of the sleep suits changing (but always remaining a gender neutral colour). It’s the first substantial thing that a mother takes possession of before her baby arrives, and so it’s clear why this is such an important step for them.
A recent report states that Finnish mums are some of the happiest worldwide; I wonder how much of this is due to the box. I think it’s an incredible way to encourage responsible parenting, to help give your countries children the best start in life possible, and to promote babies health even before they’re born.
The box changes with time, so for example, a bottle is now left out to encourage breastfeeding. Unsurprisingly, more Finnish mothers now breastfeed.
Does your country do anything similar to this? Or are you in Finland and can tell us more about this? Let us know!
Lauren is a soon-to-be London lawyer and a current Masters student studying in Rennes, France for a Masters in French law (specializing in European Union Law). She’s a blogger (www.thelifestylediaries.com) and has worked for Her Campus Media as President of the University of Exeter chapter and the Manager of UK Expansion in the past. When she’s not working she loves reading, watching old films, walking with her dog in the English countryside and enjoying all that London has to offer. An avid traveler, and someone who wants to experience as many cultures as she can, Lauren visited Sri Lanka last year and is looking to visit Bali, Italy and Canada this year.