Why do Finnish babies sleep in boxes?
In Finland, babies sleep in cardboard boxes, not cribs. Whilst you might laugh at this seemingly weird idea, Finnish parents swear by the benefits it has for babies. Find out why boxes may just be better than beds.
For 75 years, newborn babies in Finland have been sent home with a cardboard box full of essential sleeping items, issued by the government. It’s called the ‘maternity box’.
After they return home, parents don’t simply take out the more valuable sleeping items and discard the cardboard box. It’s not merely a container to carry things – it’s also a baby bed.
So why do Finnish parents use the box as a baby bed, rather than a crib? The most obvious guess is that they can’t afford one. When the scheme was first introduced in the 1930s, this was the main reason. Finland was then a very poor country with a high infant mortality rate.
Equal start in life
However, today the Scandinavian country has a much stronger economy, but Finnish parents are still using the unorthodox baby bed. Many attribute the continued use to a Finnish tradition, that has formed over generations. The box also promotes an idea that all children have an equal start in life, regardless of their socio-economic background.
Decreasing infant mortality rate
Another reason why Finnish parents haven’t abandoned their unusual baby bed, is the fact that infant mortality rates (IMR) have dropped enormously, ever since the maternity box was introduced in 1938.
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According to the CIA World Factbook, around 65 out of every 1,000 Finnish babies died in the 1930s, which was one of the highest IMRs in the world. Today, Finland boasts one of the lowest IMRs in the world, at 2.8 infant deaths per 1,000.
Singapore ranks number one for infant safety in the world, with less than 2 deaths per 1,000. Although Singapore parents won’t be rushing to buy their baby a cardboard box, other nations that experience high IMRs might be able to learn from a few of the principles that the humble cardboard box promotes.
Check out this video looking at Finnish city life:
For example, the cardboard baby bed promotes parents sleeping separately from the baby. Professor Panu Pulma, from the University of Helsinki, told the BBC: “Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop.”
“Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them,” he added.
A recent study by BMJ Open found that sleeping with a newborn increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by 5 times.
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The box once contained baby bottles and dummies. However, these were taken away from the box in order to encourage mothers to breastfeed more.
“One of the main goals of the whole system was to get women to breastfeed more…it’s happened,” Pulma explained further.
The items inside the box also provide parents with many of the things they will need at the start. At the bottom of the box there is a comfy mattress, along with sheets and covers which turns it into a baby bed. The box also contains baby clothes, towels, nappies, picture books..and for the parents, bra pads and condoms.
Although many might raise an eyebrow to this unusual baby bed, one cannot argue against what it has achieved in Finland. It has tackled infant mortality rates successfully whilst also promoting the importance of equality.