Putting a newborn baby in a cardboard box seems like cruel and unusual punishment, but in Finland, it has been a tradition since the 1930s. This quirky rite-of-passage for Finnish parents is part of the maternity package each new mother receives when their child is born.
One of these “baby boxes” includes several sets of clothing, from snowsuits to rompers, bibs, toothbrushes, toys, washcloths and more. All of the goodies and necessities come in a box with a mattress pad that doubles as a crib, so regardless of the family’s income, children can have a warm place to sleep.
In the 1930s, Finland was struggling financially, 65 out of 1,000 babies died each year due to chilling temperatures and poverty. This changed dramatically, with the passing of the Finnish Maternity Grants Act of 1938, which provided each new mother a box or cash grant instead. Poor families, especially in the World War II era, were able to give their babies a clean place to sleep using the box, and adequately care for their child.
The maternity pack is not mandatory for new moms; some may wish to get a small grant of about 140 euros instead, just like it was back in the 1930s. However, many Finns believe that the box is a bargain and has cultural significance, as they change slightly with each passing year.
Everything in the box is also gender-neutral, so it can be passed down to each new family member, reducing waste. Today Finland has some of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, and boasts some of the happiest moms as well.