baby

'I spent my first six months dozing in a Finnish baby box. Now, your bub can do the same.'

Being born in Finland in the late 1970s, I started my life in a Finnish Baby Box.

My parents had twins, my sister and brother before me and they did not have the space or the funds to buy another cot so my baby bed was a Finnish Baby Box courtesy of the government.

My mother recalls me sleeping in the box for the first six months until my parents managed to get me a cot.

My first memories of baby boxes are from my childhood when I was dressing my baby bear in the baby clothes that were part of the box from the year I was born in. The actual box was green on the outside and the clothing was very retro.

I recall a yellow and orange blanket with circular pattern across it very vividly.  Growing up in Finland the baby box concept was part of everyday life. I recall my cousin sleeping in a box when I visited my Aunties house. You could also tell which babies were born in same year when looking at photos as the babies were wearing the same coloured and patterned clothing.

In the Late 1990s, I started my nursing studies as I was fascinated on how the health system worked and through my studies I got to know more about the concept behind the baby box.

Baby boxes were only given to vulnerable families on the condition that the mother would attend pre-natal clinics (called Neuvola) in the 1930s. This was extended to include all pregnant mothers in 1949 as it was used to make sure mothers were attending and getting educated about vaccination, breastfeeding, hygiene etc.

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The box was full of some necessities for the mother (including condoms and re-usable bra pads!) and baby clothing to suit both winter and summer months. Over the years there have been teethers, milk bottles for babies and cloth nappies included within the box.

The contents in the box tends to change from year to year and questionnaires are regularly sent out to obtain feedback on what products parents require and want to have in the box. The pattern of the box is selected through an annual competition. In 2018 the box design will celebrate Finland’s 100 year Independence anniversary.

When I was training to become a nurse, I was doing my placement in Paediatrics in Finland. A new mother had brought some of the clothing from the baby box with her and she was dressing her son in them ready to go home.

The unisex coloured clothing change sfrom year to year and I remember the mother was very excited to be able to put the baby to sleep in the baby box which she had specially dressed for the occasion.

My husband and I moved to Australia in 2008 and when I got pregnant with my first son in 2012 I remembered the Finnish baby box concept and realised that there was nothing like this in Australia.

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We Finns have been truly spoilt with this all-inclusive box. I had hoped to have one of the Finnish baby boxes for my baby however it was too expensive to ship one over from Finland. I decided to set up my business, Tuutu to make baby boxes available for mothers in Australia. Our first mock up box was plain white and we just needed to decide on the pattern (Finnish flowers) before commencing the print run.

I did not have a chance to sleep my sons in a baby box however my hope is that by launching the product Tuutu will help Australian families embrace this very sustainable and economical concept.

How much good can a simple box do?  Today there are lots of programs around the world that are based on this same concept. In Scotland the Government is rolling out the program to all expectant mothers, independent of their economic situation.

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In Canada and in the US there are programs that are targeting vulnerable families and they are providing boxes and education to the mothers to be.

There has been lots of talk about how the infant mortality rate has dropped in Finland and the influence of the baby box on this. At the end of 1930s nearly every tenth child born died under the age of one, but by 2015 the infant mortality rate was sitting at 1.7 against 1,000 live births.

It is generally acknowledged that the baby box is one contributing factor towards this along with the education provided at the pre-natal clinics, better health care, vaccination programs and a drop in teenage pregnancies.

The baby box is a safe sleep space that together with the right education and other resources could do a world of good. We hope that the Australian government will introduce a similar program soon for those families in need as this simple idea could be both an economical and sustainable answer to some of the problems faced by many families across the country.

For more information about Susanna’s baby boxes, visit the Tuutu website. You can also find them on Instagram.

Have you ever used a baby box? Do you think they’re a good idea?

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