Nearly three years ago, the Magazine reported on the Finnish baby box – a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys the state gives to expectant mothers. The story went viral and was read by 10 million people in 18 months. Now the box idea itself is spreading around the world.
It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s. Every new mother, regardless of background or income, gets a baby box from the government. The box contains a stash of supplies – bibs, bodysuits, nappies, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products – as well as a small mattress. Putting the mattress in the bottom of the box creates the baby’s first bed.
It has been credited with helping Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.
More publicity for the idea quickly followed when the Finnish government gave a baby box to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were then expecting their first child.
Soon afterwards, three fathers in Finland set up a business to supply boxes to customers all over the world. Two women in the US did the same thing. There is now a similar business in the UK, and there may be others elsewhere.
It was such a simple idea, and apparently so effective, that health professionals and social entrepreneurs also wanted to put the box to the test, in some cases teaming up with one of these private suppliers.
Often the contents of the box or the way it is distributed are designed to address local problems, from preventing infection to getting the baby out of the parents’ bed, where there may be a risk of suffocation. And in some cases one of the key goals is – as it was in Finland in the early days – to encourage expectant mothers to attend antenatal clinics.
Two South African entrepreneurs, Ernst Hertzog of Action Hero Ventures and marketing executive Frans de Villiers, concluded that a plastic box, that can be used as a bath rather than a bed, was more useful for South African mothers.
But the main objective was to get mothers to antenatal classes, and a trial carried out by a team from Stellenbosch University last year concluded that the Thula Baba Box, as it is known, encourages mothers to attend clinics at an earlier stage of pregnancy, and to attend more frequently. Among other things, this reduces the risk of an HIV-positive mother dying in childbirth, and reduces the risk of HIV being passed from the mother to the baby.
Categories: The Muslim Times