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Baby Boxes – Do They Save Lives?

A newborn boy sleeping peacefully in a box.

In recent months there has been increasing coverage about baby boxes, particularly since the NHS started to roll out their baby box scheme in certain regions.

The baby box tradition was started in 1930’s Finland. At that time, Finland was relatively poor economically and struggling with infant mortality rates in comparison with its Nordic neighbours. The idea of the baby box was to give each baby a good start in life. Originally meant for poorer families, by the late 1940s the scheme had been rolled out for all expectant mothers. Today, the baby box is steeped in Finnish tradition and has become popular all over the world 1.

What’s In The Box?

Traditional Finnish boxes had outdoor wear, bodysuits, bathing products and nappies. NHS box contents are dependent on your region. As an individual you can order bespoke baby boxes from private companies (which make ideal baby shower gifts). Crucially the most significant item is the mattress and the box itself.

british baby box

Why The Box?

The box doubles up as your baby’s first bed (up to the first 8 months). The dimensions of the box and the mattress make it difficult for baby to turn over in the night, thereby reducing the risk of SIDS. The sharp and impressive decline in infant death in Finland, from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015, has been attributed to the baby box scheme.

But Should It?

There is no research to show that the box has any ‘magical’ power to prevent infant deaths. Mostly, it has provided a safe environment, close to parents at night, where baby can be kept in reach. The box itself is actually part of a wider healthcare scheme. In Finland, women had to sign up to pre-natal classes before receiving their box. In the UK, we have a very good follow up nursing/health visitor schedule. Added to which, advancements in medicine and technology have meant that infant death rates have been declining globally for some time 2.

So, it might be more useful to view the baby box as emblematic of a caring, socially aware and morally obligated society than it is a practical tool. Having said that everything it represents makes it a great product. For low income families, particularly, it is a vital piece of equipment during the first few months of a baby’s life, together with the practical advice and information that comes with it.

As a gift, it’s pretty perfect too and can be filled with a whole array of gorgeous baby items.



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