When hearing the words “Baby Boxes” many Americans think of the Safe Haven (Baby Moses) Law. This law states that any parent who believes they are unfit to care for their newborn may leave their child with a designated private person who will provide care until it can be adopted or fostered. The most common, stereotypical example of this is leaving a newborn child at a fire station. This law is said to fight abandonment, infanticide, and abuse; yet is most commonly associated, in American’s heads, with baby boxes. To contrast, the words “Baby Boxes” to citizens of Finland have a very different meaning . Instead of imagining newborns being abandoned in front of fire stations, the Finnish see a giant box being delivered to their house as a gift filled with necessary supplies to take care of an infant.
The Baby Box Program began in Finland in the 1930’s. At this time, Finland had a high infant mortality rate, and wanted to change it. Low-income mothers could apply to receive a baby-box if they visited a doctor in the first four months of pregnancy. Inside each box were items deemed necessary for caring for a newborn such as: onesies, blankets, washcloths, soap, and more. The box itself was part of the gift as well. There was a tiny mattress at the bottom which transformed the cardboard box into the baby’s crib. The baby box also served as a bigger symbol in Finland: all children, no matter their economic status, could have an equal start in life.
Not only does the Finnish baby box provide supplies necessary to raise a child, it also encourages infant safety such as safe sleep and doctors visits. There is limited space in the box/crib itself eliminating the temptation to place blankets, pillows, and toys in the box with the baby, thus reducing the risk of suffocation during sleep. Additionally, to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the newborn’s crib should be in the parent’s room for the first year of life. Because the baby box is small and portable, it would not be difficult to find room for the baby to sleep in the parents room. In some forms of the box there are also informational pamphlets encouraging parents to place their newborns on their backs instead of stomachs to help reduce the risk of suffocation. Additionally, in order to receive the box mothers must visit a municipal doctor within the first four months of pregnancy. This promotes good early health practices in the hopes the mother will continue to see a doctor throughout pregnancy and after birth.
After implementing the Baby Box incentive in Finland, infant mortality decreased dramatically, leading other countries who had higher infant mortality rates to implement similar policies. Even parts of the United States have implemented baby boxes. There is a company called “The Baby Box Company” located in California that sells baby boxes parents can buy for their newborn. Prices range from $70-$200 depending on how many resources the parent wants to be included. In some boxes there is also a subscription to “Baby Box University”, which is the company’s information hub that helps to educate parents regarding any questions they may have. Expanding this program would allow more parents to be educated and more prepared for the birth of their child.
There could be possible backlash from Americans from implementing a nation-wide program. There is a stigma in the United States to be better than your neighbor, and some might see this program as the government overstepping their bounds. In order to be successful and not step on anyone’s toes, the program should start at the grassroots level and make its way up through state governments. There is no manual that comes with babies, therefore the baby box tries to help sooth parent’s worries by providing resources and supplies.The US should adopt Baby Boxes statewide to continue to help low-income families in the transition to caring for a newborn, and to continue to promote safe sleep practices. Baby boxes are truly the gift that keeps on giving!