What is the Finnish Baby Box?

Have you heard about the Finnish ‘baby box’? For decades, the Finns have given every new baby a big cardboard box filled with free nappies, wipes, warm clothes, etc. And at the bottom of the box is a thin mattress. You get the idea, once the goodies are removed, what remains is an inexpensive little baby cot to keep an infant on the floor right next to mum all night.

The very simple idea has caught on beyond Finland, with free baby box programs popping up in Canada, England, and the United States.

What is So Special About the Baby Sleeping Box?

The basic reason for using cardboard boxes is to give families a cheap and easy way to avoid having a baby sleep in their parent’s bed or some other risky place where pillows, blankets—or parental body parts—might accidentally cover a sleeping baby’s face and cause smothering.

Are Finnish Baby Boxes Safe?

But, are they really better? Recently, The Lullaby Trust weighed in on the safety of the baby box. Their verdict? Hmmm…they are just not sure.

‘As a charity that works to reduce the number of SIDS deaths we have previously raised concerns about misleading claims that the use of a cardboard box reduces infant deaths. There is no evidence that directly links the use of a baby box with a reduction in infant mortality or SIDS.’writes Francine Bates, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust.

Finland has not done studies on their box, and the United Stateshas not announced any science-based research to coincide with their program either.

‘It is still not possible for baby boxes to fully comply with British safety standards because no specific standard currently exists for the use of a cardboard box as a sleeping place for an infant’ Bates says. 

Unanswered Questions About the Baby Cardboard Box

Does a baby box on the floor protect the baby from the family dog?

Could a baby box put on a high perch get knocked over?

Might some mums and dads put blankets or stuffed animals in the baby box and thus introduce a suffocation risk?

Does a baby box do anything to improve a baby’s sleep and reduce the temptation that an exhausted mum will accidentally—or intentionally—fall asleep with the baby in her bed?

The bottom line: More research is needed.

Baby Boxes Are Not Just About Freebies

In Finland, the free box + free stuff are the ‘sizzle,’ but parent education is the ‘steak.’ Mums getting the box must agree to come in for a prenatal/safety visit. And, in Canada and the United States, parents must watch educational videos and pass a quiz to get the baby boxes.  

So while it is very clear that the intentions behind these programs are very good, unfortunately, it is not yet known if they are safe for sleeping.

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