In all my time scouring the internet for information about the way government can better support families, a story I covered for Babble this week about Finnish “maternity boxes” is without a doubt my favorite. Back in the 1930’s the Finnish government decided to take steps to reduce the high infant mortality rate by increasing prenatal care, providing needed supplies to families, and encouraging safe sleep. The result? Well, read on:
No so for families in Finland. Instead, expectant moms get a gift from the government that gives them everything they need to start a baby off right. According to the BBC:
“It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.
The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.
It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.
With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.”
Wild, huh? Back when this program began, Finland was a poor country with a very high infant mortality rate. The government established the maternity box program to give babies a healthier start. Not only do the supplies include warm clothes and a safe space to sleep, but in order to register for the box, moms need to visit a doctor for prenatal care. As a result, the infant mortality rate has dropped from 65 per 1000 births to less than 10 per 1000 births.
That’s right. Such a simple idea. A box of baby gear for every mom who goes to the doctor. Babies and moms are healthier, families have what the need for a new baby, and Finnish mothers are some of the happiest int he world, according to some surveys.
You know what that is? Family friendly. True support for mothers and babies. A societal commitment to caring for everyone. The US could learn a lot from Finland.
Photo courtesy of the BBC