Smart design

Why do Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes?

Photo via Facebook/Finnish Baby Box

In Finland, it’s common for parents put their babies to sleep in cardboard boxes. It’s a government-sponsored tradition that’s being touted as a success story now, with similar designs of such “baby boxes” hoping to lower infant mortality rates around the world. Finnish baby boxes started in 1938 to help low-income families decrease the high rates of infant mortality. They come stocked with more than 50 items, including diapers, bathing products, a rattle, a book, a snow suit, onesies, and even a mattress, sheets and blankets so the box can be used as a crib for the newborn. In addition to offering a starter kit of supplies to help care for the baby, they also include condoms and bra pads for the parents. The boxes are given by the government to new parents to try and offer all Finnish babies an “equal start” in life. Babies sleep in the boxes, sent to new parents containing snowsuits, hats and bodysuits, for the first three to four months of their lives.

Before the box was introduced, about 10 percent of all Finnish children died before their first birthday — a number today that has fallen to 0.3 percent. But the box isn’t completely responsible for the drop in mortality rate: pre-natal care for all women was introduced in the country in the 1940s, and Finland’s national health insurance system and central hospital network were created in the 1960s, which also account for the improvement, Mika Gissler, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, explained to the BBC in 2013.

Karima Ladhani, a Harvard University doctoral who recently created a similar box for South Asian mothers called the “Barakat Bundle,” said the design is “crucial” to address the global needs of parents. His project hopes to save the lives of up to 58,000 infants by 2020. Just like in Finland, new mothers in South Asia must consent to a prenatal medical exam before receiving the box – a measure that could save the lives of 3,000 mothers in upcoming years. There, boxes include low-cost infant caps and information about breastfeeding. “We capture that intangible feeling in a product that is specifically tailored to the culture, context and needs of South Asian families,” Ladhani said.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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