Finnish Babies, Cardboard Boxes and the Baby Bonus
A recent article on the BBC website caught my eye – Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes – and upon reading it I was surprised to discover in Finland every expectant mother is given the option of a Baby Box, a kind of maternity starter kit, or a cash bonus. 95% of the women in Finland opt for the box.
The article says:
Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.
The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.
“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,” says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela – the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland’s nascent welfare state.
The box contains:
- Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
- Box itself doubles as a crib
- Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
- Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
- Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
- Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colours and patterns
- Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth
- Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
- Picture book and teething toy
- Bra pads, condoms
I love this idea! What a fantastic initiative! And so much more valuable than a cash bonus, in my opinion, as it actually gives you what you need.
The Viking has mentioned a few times that one of the hardest things about having your first child was the moment after you get home from the hospital, after the excitement has worn off, and you suddenly have a panic that there’s a tiny life depending on you and you have no idea what to do. I don’t believe anything could really prepare parents for that, but the baby box initiative sounds like it would help. It would remove the fear in the days before having your child that you’re not ready, or you don’t have everything you need. Because you do – the government gave it to you.
Not only that but by adding the criteria that they are required to attend a clinic in order to qualify for the box ensures mothers are receiving proper medical care and advice.
The inclusion of cloth nappies was implemented in 2006 for environmental reasons and the removal of the bottle was made at the same time to encourage breastfeeding. So the box is not only practical but is designed to encourage mothers to raise their children in an environmentally sustainable manner that is researched as being the best for the child.
And it’s worked, infant mortality rates have dropped dramatically since the introduction of the box.
There’s also the social implications of the box, which weren’t discussed in the article but I can definitely see from the standpoint of a woman who has about 20 friends currently pregnant, it removes the competition, the comparison. All the babies come out and into the same bed, wearing similar clothes, and in similar conditions. No worrying about not being able to afford as nice a cot as your friend has – the governement will provide you both with the same one. And I think that’s a really valuable thing as well.
The only issue would probably be how many times your baby would be wearing the same thing as someone else… but I suppose they’re not old enough to care ;).
I really can’t see any reason why this scheme couldn’t, nay, shouldn’t be introduced here. We are currently in a political climate where parental leave plans are hot on the agenda – even if they are for “women of calibre” – and maternity leave and baby bonuses just might win or lose this election. Well, that is if anyone believes the election hasn’t already been won (I’m still crossing my fingers it hasn’t).
If the government is looking at alternatives to the baby bonus which has now been removed from the budget in favour of the 18 week minimum wage maternity scheme (which in my opinion is a better scheme anyway) I’d like to suggest this option be added to the table. It would also remove the completely unjustified fear of people having children purely for the government income (seriously? Does anyone think that plan will actually work out?).
What do you think of the Baby Box? Should we bring it in here?
All images in this article are from the original BBC article