And a child in every box
June 4, 2013 8:08 AM   Subscribe

The Finnish welfare state gives every parent a box for their child. While so many politicians gnash their teeth and "think of the children", while cutting benefits or ignoring the massive number of kids dying from firearms, the Finns give every expectant parent a box. The box contains everything a parent needs to get started, including the box to sleep in (with a little mattress), and has been credited by public health officials with massively reducing infant mortality.
posted by petrilli (143 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

 
I especially love how the contents have evolved with the times--cloth diapers replaced with disposable, then years later disposable replaced with cloth again.
posted by padraigin at 8:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can see how we'd go from "anchor babies stealing our jerbs" to "They're stealing our boxes!!" in certain ugly anti-immigrant circles.
posted by k5.user at 8:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I found interesting was that 95% of people opt for the box, rather than the cash grant. It's an equalizing agent, though I suspect Finns are much less status-conscious than their American peers. It also allows bonding across generations.
posted by petrilli at 8:17 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Awww... wook at the widdle onesies! Who's an adorable box? That's right, you're an adorable box!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


We need some boxes up here in Philadelphia!
posted by Mister_A at 8:30 AM on June 4, 2013


When I was first learning to drive I swerved out of the way in order to hit a small box on the road. I was basically testing my ability to hit something with my tires. My mother who was in the car yells out, "Don't hit that box! There could be a baby in there!" It was this totally ridiculous paranoid version of reality where people could leave babies in boxes on the road. It was also just what blurted out in the quick moment where she realized I was going to hit it. Even she thought it funny after, but her point was I had no idea what was in there. It could have been a brick or nails or full of kittens or, yes, even a baby.

I remember this every time I see a box on the road. I've since come to think of this as a sort of Schrödinger's baby thought experiment, except in this case it was (Jorgensen's baby). There's really no way to know the state of the baby in the box until you do hit it with your car. It's there or it's not there. It's dead. It's alive.

Who knew there was a country that actually put babies in boxes? Good thing I never swerve for boxes anymore.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [43 favorites]


Is this the only box the Finns get?

Because I could also see every child receiving a box of papers, pencils, crayons, markers, rulers, erasers, and books at the start of each school year, but I'm guessing those are probably already available to Finnish students at their properly-funded public schools.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm not much of a baby person, but the google image search results for "baby balaclava" are almost terrifyingly adorable.
posted by orme at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is wonderful. Support for new families is so important and having this available to all makes so much sense. When pregnant with our first I didn’t have a clue what I really needed and a large proportion of the things I ended up with were a waste of money and space.

In Quebec we have an excellent guide that is given out to all new mothers. That book was very well used in our house, much more so that any of the "What to Expects" and their ilk. Taxes are fairly high here but the benefits for new mothers and fathers are worth every penny I pay. Even though I have both children in school as of this year I swear I will never begrudge the money this province spends on very generous maternal and paternal leaves, subsidized daycare and (more recently) fertility treatments. I would totally support a program like this.

New moms and dads need all the help they can get, that first stretch is really tough.
posted by Cuke at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


You can't raise children in boxes, they'll grow up all cubical, like Minecraft people. This is madness.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:32 AM on June 4, 2013 [20 favorites]


I love this.
posted by prefpara at 8:33 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I found interesting was that 95% of people opt for the box, rather than the cash grant. It's an equalizing agent, though I suspect Finns are much less status-conscious than their American peers.

I have no idea how American status consciousness enters into it: "a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it's worth much more." I assumed that meant the value of the goods was greater than the cash you'd get.

It would be nice to see some kind of comparison to infant mortality rates in comparable nations over the same time period.
posted by yerfatma at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't imagine any argument against this. I mean, not that I can't imagine people going berserk and claiming this is the worst thing in the world because socialism. I mean that I can't imagine any argument well grounded in logic, with an awareness of the importance of being decent to each other, that could possibly think this is a bad thing.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


We had our first child in Cambridge, MA, and every new family received a box of books from the library. A very Cambridge version of the Finn's winter clothes.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:35 AM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Do you get to choose sizes? If you give birth in late spring, do you get a much bigger snowsuit than if you give birth in late fall? I'm so curious about weirdly specific details of how this works.
posted by jeather at 8:38 AM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm not much of a baby person, but the google image search results for "baby balaclava" are almost terrifyingly adorable.

CUTEST BURGLARS EVAR.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:39 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


So if you figure maybe $250 per box, the US could adopt this policy for ~$1 billion a year. But I guess that would be wasteful government spending.
posted by ghharr at 8:41 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interesting comment on hacker news from someone who had a baby in Finland. He notes that it's not just the box, it's also pre-natal care, funded maternity ward, post-natal care, cash support towards daycare, and of course maternity and paternity leave that can somewhat be extended to three years.

The box is nice. What's really valuable is a state that sees value in caring for all aspects of having and raising a child. America won't do this because we're racists.
posted by Nelson at 8:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [79 favorites]


US VERSION

"Welcome to America, kid. Here's your box."

[Inside are a pair of bootstraps]
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:43 AM on June 4, 2013 [74 favorites]


A basic decent kindness afforded to everyone for the benefit of the most vulnerable, and yet I'm tearing up at just how sweet and rare such a thing is.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Really? I can already hear the "big government" lunatics already losing their minds. The problem is that those other people, the ones I don't like and have nothing in common with, would also be receiving this box, and I am sure they do not deserve it.
posted by bleep at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't actually believe that btw.
posted by bleep at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not much of a baby person, but the google image search results for "baby balaclava" are almost terrifyingly adorable.

CUTEST BURGLARS EVAR.


That is pretty much what children are.
posted by srboisvert at 8:46 AM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Oh man it took me about 30 seconds to come up with the American objections to this idea from every side " How the government tell me what I should get for my baby, this takes away my FREEEDOM to not take part! Do you want the government to decide what Yiur baby " needs"? I bet they use CHEMICALS in those things! I hear people are getting Pregant JUST TO GET THE BOX and then sell it! Living Hugh off MY MONEY, why should it go to THOSE PEOPLE....etc"

Anyway we can't have nice things cause were a nation of amoral idiot sociopaths.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [110 favorites]


What I found interesting was that 95% of people opt for the box, rather than the cash grant. It's an equalizing agent, though I suspect Finns are much less status-conscious than their American peers.

I have no idea how American status consciousness enters into it: "a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it's worth much more." I assumed that meant the value of the goods was greater than the cash you'd get.
It's status consciousness because if I receive the same government-handout as a "welfare queen" or "the 47%", it means I'm no longer special or different or better than anyone. I can't have that. I get all of my self-worth and social standing and health insurance from my job and my ability to provide. Implying that I can't provide or that I'm somehow equal with someone who can't provide, even if it's just receiving an identical box of goods, makes me uncomfortable.
posted by bleep at 8:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is wonderful. Support for new families is so important and having this available to all makes so much sense.

It is also full of a great deal of free samples and other advertising giveaways so not really a benevolent gift.

What's really valuable is a state that sees value in caring for all aspects of having and raising a child.

What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

That makes doing things via the state rather a different kettle of fish than attempting the same in a nation of 300m "amoral idiot sociopaths" who have little in common other than their differences.
posted by three blind mice at 8:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is fantastic.

I also love the idea that everything a baby needs (well, besides food and love) is in that box. Kind of highlights the pointless consumerism of the whole OTT-baby-shower, designer-crib, gendered-coloured clothing bullshit.
posted by Salamander at 8:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think this is one of the coolest things I'd never heard of. Unfortunately, many comments have it correct in saying that this would run into (idiotic) opposition in the U.S. Pity. However, as I look over the list of items, I have to ask myself just what an infant (of either sex) would need the condoms for. ;)
posted by TDavis at 8:53 AM on June 4, 2013


They're like rubber pee-pee tee-pees.
posted by Kabanos at 8:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


We had our first child in Cambridge, MA, and every new family received a box of books from the library.

Awesome! For a summer, I worked for a charity called Books for Babies, which did just that, up and down the west coast of Newfoundland. I was doing the database stuff and all that garbage, not meeting clients, but my god the client adoption/satisfaction surveys I looked at were humbling. Chronically underfunded, we were trying to get books to every community/family, and literally the best way we had of getting in touch with people was if a former client knew them. We'd get calls saying "hi, do you cover town X?" We did but had never delivered there, and it was always because they knew someone in a different town, or someone had moved to there, and like wildfire a new community of expectant parents were signed up. Not infrequently, the parents couldn't read, there was no library within 50km or more, it didn't matter. Those books made such a huge difference.

I can only imagine how much a box like this would do.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:56 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's status consciousness because if I receive the same government-handout as a "welfare queen" or "the 47%", it means I'm no longer special or different or better than anyone. I can't have that. I get all of my self-worth and social standing and health insurance from my job and my ability to provide. Implying that I can't provide or that I'm somehow equal with someone who can't provide, even if it's just receiving an identical box of goods, makes me uncomfortable.

That might well be, but given that the "status-consciousness" issue was raised as an entirely speculative hypothetical about how Americans might react if given the same opportunity that was based entirely on unproven stereotypes, I don't see how it's at all relevant.

I have no clue what Americans would do if given the choice between a box and a cash grant; maybe they would all take the cash grant because we're shallow fools, but I do know that 1) no one in this thread knows either and 2) this thread isn't about America, so this kind of seems like a conversation that no one needs to have.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ideally, the free market should decide which babies are fit enough for survival!
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do you get to choose sizes? If you give birth in late spring, do you get a much bigger snowsuit than if you give birth in late fall? I'm so curious about weirdly specific details of how this works.

According to this article from the Atlantic, "there's a winter suit, which is larger in size if you're due to give birth in the spring or summer so that the outfit will fit the baby during the following cold season."
posted by Kabanos at 8:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


A couple of years ago, KELA inspired this student project by UPM (a forest cluster company) to see what they might come up with using innovative materials. I liked how they built up the kit from a crib all the way to a tiny table and chair.
posted by infini at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2013


Is this the only box the Finns get?

I heard from the eldest of 4 recently that the younger babies get more than one box - this was when Finland's standing as the best place in the world to be a mother was in the news a few weeks ago.

I cannot vouch for this databit however.
posted by infini at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2013


This is wonderful. Support for new families is so important and having this available to all makes so much sense.

It is also full of a great deal of free samples and other advertising giveaways so not really a benevolent gift.

What's really valuable is a state that sees value in caring for all aspects of having and raising a child.

What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

That makes doing things via the state rather a different kettle of fish than attempting the same in a nation of 300m "amoral idiot sociopaths" who have little in common other than their differences.


This just sounds weird.

*looks at US green card and then looks at Finnish residence permit*

*throws one in the drawer*
posted by infini at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2013


Here are the contents of the box with pictures. I don't see much product samples there.
posted by Free word order! at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

Someone says this every single time something nice about Finland comes up. But they never explain precisely what it is about differing cultural backgrounds that poses such a problem.

And, as it happens, it's not as if everyone in Finland has the same cultural background. Never mind immigration, they've got two official languages, for heaven's sake.
posted by hoyland at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


In the google in my head, "baby balaclava" is just the first of many Chapman brothers recreations of famous battles with a youthful twist.
posted by biffa at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hear people are getting Pregant JUST TO GET THE BOX and then sell it!

Eugh, there's a pinhead on that Hacker News link hammering home his "logical" point about how in Britain women have children just so they can buy designer clothes and cigarettes with the extra benefit money it gives them. His proof is that he saw a woman smoking outside Asda once.

The resentment/hatred of the welfare state is just abhorrent to me. Help people out! It makes everything better.
posted by bonaldi at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Awww... wook at the widdle onesies!

The kind with the hands! You know what would have been nice to know before we had our daughter? That babies try to scratch their faces off if given the opportunity. I'm pretty sure Hellraiser was set in the time before scratch mitts were invented.
posted by Hoopo at 9:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The third link's text is "ignoring the massive number of kids dying from firearms" but links to an article about just one incident in which the child survives. Do you have a link to a broader study that shows the gun issue in more detail?
posted by graham1881 at 9:19 AM on June 4, 2013


What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

What about the filthy, degenerate Swedes?

In all seriousness, I think this is at least partly correct. More diverse places have less generous welfare states not because they are "wasteful" or because "we can't afford it" or whatever the cruel nonsense of day, but ultimately because the twin poisons of racism and ethnic nationalism prevent diverse polities from treating each other like goddamn human beings.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


The other article that was linked from this one about babies who nap in sub-zero temps was fascinating. Not because of the weather (although that was interesting) but the idea that parents in Nordic countries park their prams outside of cafes and leave them unattended while they go inside to have coffee.

Americans don't even like it when people do this to their dogs.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


For those interested in books, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library gives free books to kids, starting in infancy. They're distributed by age, so the theory is that all kids start school having read the same books.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:26 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is brilliant for a totally different reason. No matter how perfect your pregnancy's going, you are not assured to come back from the maternity ward with a live and kicking baby. And if you don't is way, way more humane to come back to a home without a nursery room overfilled with baby paraphernailia. That is well worth the price of making your newborn sleep in a cardboard box for a few weeks.
posted by ocschwar at 9:29 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


The third link's text is "ignoring the massive number of kids dying from firearms" but links to an article about just one incident in which the child survives. Do you have a link to a broader study that shows the gun issue in more detail?

In 2010, 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms
posted by ghharr at 9:30 AM on June 4, 2013


ghharr: "So if you figure maybe $250 per box, the US could adopt this policy for ~$1 billion a year"

Alternate read: For $1 billion a year, we could permanently eradicate Baby Showers.

This seems like an astounding bargain for almost all parties involved.
posted by schmod at 9:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [79 favorites]


While so many politicians gnash their teeth and "think of the children", while cutting benefits or ignoring the massive number of kids dying from firearms,

... or editorializing in FPPs ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also like how casually gender-neutral the clothing is. Also that they included a little knitted cap with ears, a style which I think all adorable babies should be forced to wear.

Not included though: baby burrito?
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most people think the height of civilization looks like tall shiny buildings or cutting-edge technology. It turns out civilization is a cardboard box.
posted by Jehan at 9:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [59 favorites]


Anyway we can't have nice things cause were a nation of amoral idiot sociopaths.

Yeah, everyone in this country is an amoral idiot sociopath but you. This is really a bizarre thing that I've seen on here since I've joined, which is imagining (yes, imagining) the response of some fringe extremist group, then ascribing those imagined responses to an entire group/community/nation. And it has the most favorites in this thread. Whaaaat?
posted by averageamateur at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Totally awesome. I did roll my eyes at the article's assurance that you could reuse the clothes for an opposite gender baby because the colors are "gender-neutral." Good thing, since we know a girl can't wear blue or a boy pink. But a very cool idea and one many other countries should adopt.
posted by agregoli at 9:39 AM on June 4, 2013


What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

That makes doing things via the state rather a different kettle of fish than attempting the same in a nation of 300m "amoral idiot sociopaths" who have little in common other than their differences.


I totally get that point, but to me, that's an argument IN FAVOR of doing something like this in the U.S. We have so many divisions that I think that every attempt we can make to give people something in common with other people is beneficial.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:39 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, everyone in this country is an amoral idiot sociopath but you. This is really a bizarre thing that I've seen on here since I've joined, which is imagining (yes, imagining) the response of some fringe extremist group, then ascribing those imagined responses to an entire group/community/nation. And it has the most favorites in this thread. Whaaaat?

Not "everyone." Just enough who are vocal enough to make a program like this never ever happen, just as it is with gun control, etc.

Although, hey, way to do the exact same imagination exercise with MetaFilter.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:45 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there nothing on this planet that can be appreciated in its own context and the value it offers locally, relevantly and appropriately (kind of like how the Beeb is appreciating this KELA box) without AMERICA becoming the be all and end all of all conversations?
posted by infini at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [33 favorites]


As someone who spent the first 6 months of their life sleeping in a dresser drawer, I gotta say that's a darn nice cardboard box. Handles and everything.

As grandparents, we volunteered to buy the first crib. What a mistake that was. Himself spent the whole shopping trip clutching his chest and groaning every time he looked at a price tag, and we got thrown out of Babies R Us.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Holy shit, are those dinosaurs on some of those onesies? How nice to live in a country where dinosaur enthusiasm could be unisex again. (Side note, can I please be a Finnish baby so I can get a dino print romper?)
posted by phunniemee at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is so perfectly awesome it brought tears to my eyes. Snowsuit! CONDOMS! Praise all that is good and holy, CONDOMS! The world needs baby boxes. Good on you, Finland.
posted by PuppyCat at 9:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


My cousin and his wife having their second baby in a couple of months. A few days ago he posted a for sale ad on Facebook for their first child's (2.5 years old) Pottery Barn convertible crib. Apparently they got a brand new crib for the new baby. Why? Why does the new baby need a new crib when you have one that is good enough to re-sell?
posted by elsietheeel at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Flatpack babies!

I know IKEA is Swedish
posted by madcaptenor at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In America the box would be shaped like a coffin due to our ridiculous infant mortality rate.
posted by Renoroc at 10:04 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is fantastic. And we need it in the UK too. It reminds me of one of my favourite scenes in the West Wing, where Toby is meeting his newborn twins, and he says something like, "Whaddya know, babies come with hats. So looks like you're all sorted." And to me it's a lovely spontaneous expression of his fundamental socialism, pretending to be able to assume for a moment that he lives in a world where all babies are taken care of.
posted by runincircles at 10:06 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


... doing things via the state rather a different kettle of fish than ...

That reminds me. There's another program where you get a kettle. And it's full of fish.
posted by RobotHero at 10:08 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, one of my friends, who's Finnish, makes her babies take naps outside in the winter. It's apparently a Finnish (or Scandinavian) thing. And it does seem to be true that the babies don't mind at all.
posted by rodii at 10:09 AM on June 4, 2013


This is fantastic. And we need it in the UK too. It reminds me of one of my favourite scenes in the West Wing, where Toby is meeting his newborn twins, and he says something like, "Whaddya know, babies come with hats. So looks like you're all sorted." And to me it's a lovely spontaneous expression of his fundamental socialism, pretending to be able to assume for a moment that he lives in a world where all babies are taken care of.

No, he just meant that the kids were already destined for Hufflepuff.
posted by phearlez at 10:11 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Americans don't even like it when people do this to their dogs.

To be fair, we should note that Americans don't like anything that anyone else does if it is even slightly different from what they themselves do, because then it's wrong.
posted by elizardbits at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, one of my friends, who's Finnish, makes her babies take naps outside in the winter. It's apparently a Finnish (or Scandinavian) thing. And it does seem to be true that the babies don't mind at all.

People at least used to do it in England - there's a scene in a Margaret Drabble novel from the late sixties/early seventies where the young mother is looking sadly at her baby through the window and wishing she could bring him inside but....what would people think?

Luckily, because it is a Margaret Drabble novel she finds at least some spine by the end and seems less miserable.
posted by Frowner at 10:20 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Babies who sleep in the cold, previously
posted by superna at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


As someone who spent the first 6 months of their life sleeping in a dresser drawer

Wicker basket here.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2013


What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

I'm not sure what exactly that has to do with providing basic clothing and sheets. The only thing I could see being a problem would be the toys, and let's be honest: babies don't give a shit what culture or identity their toys come from.

That makes doing things via the state rather a different kettle of fish than attempting the same in a nation of 300m "amoral idiot sociopaths" who have little in common other than their differences.

How, exactly? It's a matter of scale, sure, but the only thing making it a wholly different process are the people who are opposed to providing for others as a state of mind.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2013


Well, yes, it won't happen in the United States until things change for the better, not because of cultural diversity in the abstract, though. It's because a significant number of people in power hate black people, specifically, with the fiery hatred of a thousand hatesuns.

also Latin@ people...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:42 AM on June 4, 2013


The US version of The Box is a ton of free formula samples (and coupons) that show up on your doorstep - no joke - the very day you come home from the hospital.

I think this an awesome idea.
posted by jquinby at 10:43 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone says this every single time something nice about Finland comes up. But they never explain precisely what it is about differing cultural backgrounds that poses such a problem.

As noted, the idea is that people are more likely to be generous to people who are Like Them instead of Obviously Different.

I used to assume this was the case, but Finland and other Scandinavian countries have maintained their generous welfare states in the face of relatively high immigration (if not like Canada or the US) -- about 5% of Finland's population are foreign-born, and most of those seem to be Russians, Estonians, and Somalis, not people from the other Scandinavian states. And that ignores Finnish Swedes and the Sami.

At this point I just assume that Scandinavians are just, as a matter of central tendency, better people than Americans. Not because of superior nordic genes or because they're inherently better, but because they were brought up in a society that doesn't break people as systematically and thoroughly as American society does.

tl;dr: Finnish society doesn't turn nearly as many of its citizens and residents into amoral idiot sociopaths, so they can have nice things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is so awesome I am tearing up. I am also semi-seriously wondering whether I could convince my state to adopt it. Nationwide may be too ambitious, but convincing the state might be doable, especially if it saves Medicare/Medicaid dollars (which early childhood social care tends to).

I live in a part of the Midwest that was settled by a lot of Scandinavian immigrants, and people all the time suggest having your baby nap out in the cold* as a cure for bad sleeping habits and especially for fussy teethers, and everyone claims they get fewer colds that way. You see lots and lots of parents sitting in their yards or at a park shivering and reading a book while the baby naps in a stroller nearby. I have pulled into the driveway with a child who fell asleep in the car, and opened all the doors and left them to sleep while I sat in a lawn chair nearby with a book, on the theory that they'll sleep MUCH LONGER if you let them sleep in the fresh air. Anyway, if you talk to the older generation, lots of people will tell you that their mom-from-Sweden insisted babies sleep outside in the cold for health.

*Cold: definitely healthful in brisk fall and spring weather, but when it gets below 40 you shouldn't leave them out too long, is the common wisdom around here.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


While there's no doubt that a proposal to introduce something like this in the US would receive a lot of the right-wing scaremongering results suggested in this thread, I'm not sure if that obviously makes it a really fantastic policy proposal. It's worth noting, by the way, that every single family in the US that adds a new child gets significant tax credits as a result--far more than enough to buy the contents of this box several times over. Would adding a universal "here's your child-rearing box o' goodies" gift to accompany every single newborn child in the US really be a great use of government resources? For the vast majority of US families it would be entirely redundant stuff--almost certainly immediately given away or donated (but who would want to take it? I mean, everybody who needs it already has it--presumably it would find its way to be resold in third world countries). Undoubtedly it would be incredibly useful for many poorer families, so a means-tested version of the program could be good, but I would worry a little about the potential stigma associated with clothing your child in the "US-govt. freebie clothes." There's also potential problems in pulling away revenue streams from stores that provide clothing to low-income families. I think enhancing programs of income-support (earned income tax credits etc.) to ensure that low-income families can afford to buy this stuff themselves is probably a better approach overall. Vastly more important, of course, is providing education, medical services, psychiatric care etc. etc. etc.
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2013


The true value of this program lies in never ever having to play baby shower games ever again.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is so awesome I am tearing up.

I'm glad it's not just me.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, question: say a non-profit or program wanted to replicate this program elsewhere, on a smaller level. What would the barriers be? What kinds of non-profits would handle this kind of program?
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:09 AM on June 4, 2013


The value of the box isn't necessarily the *stuff* in the box. It's the equality that the box represents.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Do tax breaks really matter that much for people at the bottom rung of society?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah democracy doesn't work if you have a lot of Others in your country - America would never do the box thing because it would mean transfer payments from old white people to young latinos. Not that old white people were ever young or anything....
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a parent - that graph is so positively dramatic it actually makes me emotional (in a good way) .

Graph ~ How do you do that ?

I love Finland stories , their schools (a lot of recess , no testing until 14, high college graduation, really nice people and this ) I wish I could have my daughter again over there. It sounds magical. I am actually trying to incorporate some of these Finlandian approaches with our child.

As an American : the comments " The USA is etc etc all whatever negative against whatever positive " .

I'm compelled , and wish I wasn't, to the obvious defense : We are not one thing .

A stereotype like this just creates another stereotype.

I am not rich but have insurance : and my hospital , library , community services , neighborhood, school - provided awesome support . I am in the US.

On the other hand : Is our health care lopsided and unfair across the whole population : yes.

Quality of child raising can be like politics : it is local . Like living in Finland it is based on location .
posted by epjr at 11:16 AM on June 4, 2013


yoink, you're right that the US is different. Perhaps a well-publicized giveaway to anyone who applies-- have stacks of brochures in maternity wards and so on. The clothes could be normal store-brand retail from somewhere, and varied enough that it doesn't look like all of the kids are in uniform.
posted by 4th number at 11:22 AM on June 4, 2013


When I became pregnant with my son, I joined a "due in March 1997" support mailing list. Another of the expecting moms was from Finland. She got the box! She and her husband took a gorgeously generous parental leave. And, you know, saunas. I decided I wanted to have my second chid in Finland. I never made it to Finland, so my son is an only child.
posted by houseofdanie at 11:27 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the 19th century these baby boxes were actually made of wood, and were converted into baby's first sauna, once the the child could sit upright.
posted by Kabanos at 11:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is awesome. I love that the box includes condoms. "Here's a box of stuff for your baby. Also, don't make more babies for a while, OK?"
posted by asnider at 11:32 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.

I went to uni with a Swedish Finn who is now a high ranking government official. You might want to reconsider your argument from homogeneity.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yoink It's worth noting, by the way, that every single family in the US that adds a new child gets significant tax credits as a result--far more than enough to buy the contents of this box several times over. As far as I know, a baby generates a tax deduction, not a credit. There may still be a credit for a portion of child care expenses.

We got samples from the hospital - formula, disposable diapers, and coupons for more. If this was done in the US, there would be all sorts of lobbying from corporate interests to influence the contents. And probably from wingnuts like the anti-vaccine brigade, or maybe some pyramids - am I the only one who remembers pyramid power? My son slept in a basket for 6 months, then a handed-down crib. A box with basics or a book on caring for a newborn would have been excellent. Just keeping Obamacare rolling out will be a huge help to families. Keeping food stamps intact would be excellent, and especially keeping WIC funded.

The little hat with ears gave me a estrogen rush.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


elsietheeel: Your cousin might be getting rid of the old crib because in 2011 drop-side cribs were declared unsafe and banned from sale. But if that's the reason, going and selling the old crib to someone else seems like kind of a dick move.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 11:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


One small Devil's Advocate thing:

There are times when it actually is better to give people the money and let them choose their own stuff. It sounds like they keep this fresh, which speaks to the nimbleness of Finland's bureaucracy, but it could very easily drift into uselessness.

Didn't the government used to give out big clunky walking canes to blind people? Replacing that with a cash payment is what created the market for light, foldable walking sticks.

I think the cultural difference here is people being okay with the government deciding what their baby needs. In those terms, it's actually pretty reasonable to see why some people wouldn't be in favour of it.

Okay, all done with Devil's Advocate, and back to loving how the colours are gender neutral!
posted by dry white toast at 11:47 AM on June 4, 2013



Yeah, everyone in this country is an amoral idiot sociopath but you. This is really a bizarre thing that I've seen on here since I've joined, which is imagining (yes, imagining) the response of some fringe extremist group, then ascribing those imagined responses to an entire group/community/nation.


This contradiction is interesting to me. I have always found that just about every individual American I meet is friendly, generous and kind and genuinely concerned. More so than the people in any other country I have been in. Yet at a group level America is meaner than just about every other nation. Many other countries have this flipped and are individually mean and cold while having generous national policies. I have no idea what underlies this.
posted by srboisvert at 11:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


In America the box would be shaped like a coffin due to our ridiculous infant mortality rate

A. I just sprained both eyes rolling them.
B. Same objection as I had above: this is a really cool story about something that seems to be an all-around good idea with no downside. For some reason stories like that inspire people to post all manner of derails instead of thinking, "Cool, that's nice. I have nothing to say about it so I won't comment." Why do we have to do this navel-gazing False Dilemma stuff about how "we" Americans (meaning "everyone who doesn't think like I do because I am high-minded and inclusive") relate to the box? If the goal is to be citizens of the world and treat all men like brothers (except for the ladies who we should treat like sisters or brothers depending on their preference and for people who don't care to be gender typecast and we should just treat them like cool cousins or something) which I think it a rock-solid idea, can we stop turning everything into a conversation about just the people who share an arbitrary portion of a landmass with us and then only talk about them to insult the Great Unwashed Majority?
posted by yerfatma at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lazlo Hollyfield: Nope, the crib in question is not unsafe and is actually still for sale at Pottery Barn. And it converts from a crib, to a toddler bed, to a full size headboard. Which is even more ridiculous because they still have a toddler, in addition to a new baby.

I'd rather have a cardboard box.

And actually I'd rather just not have a baby at all. But if I had to? Box all the way!
posted by elsietheeel at 11:51 AM on June 4, 2013


Here are the contents of the box with pictures. I don't see much product samples there.

Me, neither. Would like to see more substantiation for that claim beyond one person's word.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:52 AM on June 4, 2013


....it's not just the box, it's also pre-natal care, funded maternity ward, post-natal care, cash support towards daycare, and of course maternity and paternity leave that can somewhat be extended to three years.


The value of the box isn't necessarily the *stuff* in the box. It's the equality that the box represents.



It's not just the box, it's the attitude that children are deemed to be an important part of society. The value is in the government recognition that every person is worthy of care and respect.

That's one damn impressive box.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:53 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]



Is there nothing on this planet that can be appreciated in its own context and the value it offers locally, relevantly and appropriately (kind of like how the Beeb is appreciating this KELA box) without AMERICA becoming the be all and end all of all conversations?

I'm not a mod, or even that polite - but could people stop mentioning america in every 2nd line of this post, it's coming across as really impolite and making the thread unreadable - i'm not particularly interested in us issues with regard to this post.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are baby boxes in the BBC historical drama "Call the Midwife", set in 1950s East End London. The midwives distribute them to their patients, usually desperately poor women. I've no idea if this is accurate, but the series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.

Btw, CtM is excellent watching.
posted by thetarium at 12:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kabanos: "Do you get to choose sizes? If you give birth in late spring, do you get a much bigger snowsuit than if you give birth in late fall? I'm so curious about weirdly specific details of how this works.

According to this article from the Atlantic, "there's a winter suit, which is larger in size if you're due to give birth in the spring or summer so that the outfit will fit the baby during the following cold season."
"

Thanks for finding that link. I was wondering the same thing about the little snowsuits. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the shirt fabrics adjust by season as well.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:08 PM on June 4, 2013


This contradiction is interesting to me. I have always found that just about every individual American I meet is friendly, generous and kind and genuinely concerned. More so than the people in any other country I have been in. Yet at a group level America is meaner than just about every other nation. Many other countries have this flipped and are individually mean and cold while having generous national policies. I have no idea what underlies this.

White Americans are on the whole decent people, but they lose their fucking minds when it comes to black people.

context: just got back from a visit to the midwest, where I found myself wanting to absolutely throttle a bunch of otherwise decent and relentlessly friendly white people for their loud-and-proud attitudes about The Darks.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:08 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is awesome.

Sadly, another reason we could not have this in America: It includes condoms! You want the taxpayers to fund consequence-free sex for the people that just received not only taxpayer funded onesies, but a free cardboard box?!

Just kidding! Thanks to the US funded abstinence-only sex ed, I know that condoms are useless and the only way to prevent pregnancy is prayer.
posted by inertia at 12:15 PM on June 4, 2013


Regarding the previously-mentioned tendency for some people to assume that individuals receiving welfare do [bad thing] in order to take advantage of the welfare system...I just now realized that they're simply assuming the people receiving welfare are as morally bankrupt as they are. Huh.
posted by davejay at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


These boxes are absolutely wonderful. It's an entire baby shower in a box. I just keep looking at the contents again and again and I'm thrilled that something like this even exists!
posted by headspace at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


White Americans are on the whole decent people, but they lose their fucking minds when it comes to black people.

That's a bit of a wide brush you're painting with, there. You might want to use a smaller one.
posted by davejay at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Came in here to mention the Imagination Library that snickerdoodle beat me to the punch on. Started by Dolly Parton! Available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia!

I'm two months away from having my kid but I'm already ready to sign up for that. BOOKS.

And for the cynical, anti-government comment, the first one I got on my link to this article was "I think if you are having a baby perhaps you should make your own plans for what he or she needs, not rely on the government to provide it for you".

*sigh* So there's that.
posted by jillithd at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2013


while cutting benefits or ignoring the massive number of kids dying from firearms, the Finns give every expectant parent a box

Wow that is weirdly dismissive. Also your links seem to be about these things happening in the US, not Finland, do you have any reference for saying that massive number of kids are dying from firearms or that this is being ignored somehow?
posted by Authorized User at 12:30 PM on June 4, 2013


Yoink It's worth noting, by the way, that every single family in the US that adds a new child gets significant tax credits as a result--far more than enough to buy the contents of this box several times over. theora55 As far as I know, a baby generates a tax deduction, not a credit. There may still be a credit for a portion of child care expenses.

Tax credits (or deductions) are great when you get your tax refund, but they're not particularly helpful three months earlier when you're having trouble scraping together enough money to buy clothes for your newborn (and, if you're poor, you might not even be filing taxes since you don't make enough money to owe any).

That's the great thing about the box program: it puts everyone on an equal footing and it provides new parents with things that their child actually needs, rather than cheaper taxes several months down the road which may or may not be actually beneficial to helping raise the baby.

I think this is also a big part of the reason why people choose the box over the cash option: it provides them with things they actually need. (There's also the fact that the contents of the box are more valuable than the cash payout, but I suspect that's almost a secondary reason.)
posted by asnider at 12:41 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Finland is not in Scandinavia.

This actually makes Finland's success more remarkable because it hasn't had the lucky economic breaks that the Scandinavian countries have had (oil, major seaports). Their per capita income is 33% less than Norway, and 25% less than the US. Still they manage to have basically the best school system in the world. There is a lot everyone else could learn from them.
posted by miyabo at 12:47 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I have to imagine if getting The Box is a big important part of the culture you grew up with, it'd be like asking "would you rather open presents and have a big dinner on Christmas, or get a cheque for an equivalent cash value"?
posted by rollick at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


yerfatma: It would be nice to see some kind of comparison to infant mortality rates in comparable nations over the same time period.

My secret internet boyfriend Hans Rosling to the rescue!
Press play on this Gapminder graph and watch the green bubbles shrink from 1936 onwards. It doesn't look like their results are wildly out of line with the other OECD countries.
posted by Iteki at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


We have so many divisions that I think that every attempt we can make to give people something in common with other people is beneficial.

We used to have this in the US; it was called the peacetime draft. But then Carter did away with it.

(I'm only half-joking.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:52 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a bit of a wide brush you're painting with, there. You might want to use a smaller one.
posted by davejay at 12:21 PM on June 4 [+] [!]


Oh, I was just narrowing down from the "cultural diversity means we can't have nice things" brush. This is because there's a million counterexamples showing that culturally diverse people can in fact get along. I propose instead that the problem isn't cultural diversity, it's white Americans, as a statistical aggregate, losing their fucking minds when it comes to black people.

I mean, they talk about black people like they're totally wretched and worthless and conniving — like they're Lannisters or something.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:25 PM on June 4, 2013


So, question: say a non-profit or program wanted to replicate this program elsewhere, on a smaller level. What would the barriers be? What kinds of non-profits would handle this kind of program?
I work for a decently sized hospital organization that spans multiple states. We give out diaper bags with formula and clothes and diapers and a bunch of other stuff. (I'm sure there's coupons too) The people who handle the pre-natal care hand them out, but I believe it's only done as part of the check-out process so as not to give them to the families who... well... you know.

Of course, this is nowhere near free, in that the simple act of childbirth will cost you thousands (if not more without insurance). But we do give them to every mother who wants one. I don't have the exacts but we did spend upwards of 1 mil US$ on them last year.

There's no box though, or mattress, and it does sound like that is an integral part of the whole thing. I can only imagine the lighting of the eyes PR people at our cross-town rival hospitals when they find out we suggested to our patients that they make their children sleep in a cardboard box.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Edit: We're technically a not-for-profit organization, but that's another FPP.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2013


Ah, äitiyspakkaus. We still lived in Finland when I was expecting my first kid and received the box. It is awesome, all the stuff in it is very good quality, practical and nice looking. And I confess it was also a huge relief for us first time parents not to have to try to figure out what a baby needs. Here's an overview of how the contents have changed over the past 20 years.

Some creative parents add their own upholstering to the box, although the box itself was made more colourful a few years ago, too (there was a contest for design students; the winning design depicts a family tree where you can fill in the names).

Btw, if you have twins, you get three boxes (and 6 for triplets, etc.!), although in that case most parents opt for one box per kid and the rest in cash. Adoptive parents are entitled to the box as well.

Anyway, the maternity box is obviously hugely popular (although every new season there seems to be a bit of kvetching on the mommy forums about the choice of colours). Also, most of the products in the box come from Finnish manufacturers, so I guess it serves as a way for the government to support the domestic textile industry, too. I don't recall any samples or other commercial crap in the box, unless you count the cookbook for babyfood which was sponsored by the dairy giant Valio (and doesn't seem to be included in the box anymore - which is a pity, it was great, too).
posted by sively at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Couldn't you do it in America purely by having it sponsored by a bunch of baby-gear companies? I mean, what would Pampers give to put a giant logo on a box given out to EVERY BABY BORN in the US? All the onsies with big Baby GAP logos on the front? I'm not saying that's the way to do it, but it would probably be a more successful way to start.

When my baby-having friends are all freaking out about "need to get this for the baby!" "what does the baby need!" "the baby needs all this stuff!" I like to point out that "hey, babies can sleep in boxes, what's the big deal?". I was joking. I had no idea! They really can!
posted by marylynn at 2:03 PM on June 4, 2013


Because I could also see every child receiving a box of papers, pencils, crayons, markers, rulers, erasers, and books at the start of each school year, but I'm guessing those are probably already available to Finnish students at their properly-funded public schools.

My kids go to school in a major Canadian city. When they started school, they were given a bag with books, paper, magnetic letters, workbooks, scissors, crayons, pencils, markers, erasers and more. Kids from dual households were given two bags...the teachers had that figured out by orientation. This is current.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:07 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


My kids go to school in a major Canadian city. When they started school, they were given a bag with books, paper, magnetic letters, workbooks, scissors, crayons, pencils, markers, erasers and more. Kids from dual households were given two bags...the teachers had that figured out by orientation. This is current.

Is it a public school? Because that's amazing. In my area, school supply lists have gotten larger and larger. And in many schools, the things you provide for your kid don't even stay with your kid. They go into a collective pool and are handed out as needed.

I'll tell you what, instead of making the parents buy the school supplies directly, just raise our damn taxes. Surely, the school board can use the money more efficiently (by buying in bulk, for example) if they get it as revenue from they state rather than having parents send a year's worth of school supplies in their kid's backpack on the first day of school. But apparently taxes are bad so, you know...
posted by asnider at 2:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


You can tell when a government really values families because it's child-centric. A box of baby things, decent schools, healthcare, food programs and a safety net for those families who may have a parent out of work.

So I always wonder why it is that we socialist-leaning liberal types are accused of being anti-family, and why those who would begrudge kids, who have no choice in how their parents manage money, the basic necessities of life continue to rant about "family values."

I mean, either walk the walk or STFU.

The box is completely excellent BTW!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


When my baby-having friends are all freaking out about "need to get this for the baby!" "what does the baby need!" "the baby needs all this stuff!" I like to point out that "hey, babies can sleep in boxes, what's the big deal?". I was joking. I had no idea! They really can!

...and you're still joking, right? Because they can sleep anywhere. Hell, a blankie on the floor does just fine.
posted by MissySedai at 2:48 PM on June 4, 2013


I've written about this before on Metafilter, but you really can't make meaningful comparisons among different countries' infant mortality rates. To quote myself:

My understanding is that it's often highly misleading to make inter-country comparisons of infant mortality because each country sets its own definition of a live birth (as opposed to a late miscarriage or a stillbirth), and so they're counting infant mortality very differently. In the US, any baby who is fully expelled from its mother and then takes a breath, has a heartbeat, makes a voluntary movement, or displays any other signs of life, is counted as a live birth, regardless of gestational age, size, or how soon afterwards the baby may stop exhibiting signs of life. If the baby then dies, that's counted as an infant death. By contrast, many other countries have minimum size requirements (length or weight; in Canada, the baby must weigh more than 500 grams at birth), a minimum length of time the child must live (in Japan, for example, a baby who dies in the first 24 hours after birth is counted as a miscarriage, not an infant death), or a minimum gestational age (in most EU countries, a baby born before 26 weeks, even if born breathing, counts as a miscarriage if it doesn't survive). Those differences in measurement dramatically skew any attempts at comparison.

The difference is likely political. Any attempt in the US to say that a breathing human being outside its mother's body is not a living child would induce fits of rage from those who believe that a fetus or a zygote is a person, not to mention significant discomfort from the majority of Americans who are uncomfortable with late-term abortion. In countries where abortion is less of a hot button issue, counting a born 20 week old fetus as a miscarriage or a baby who takes one breath and then dies as a stillbirth doesn't lead to the same sort of political drama. But the fact remains that because of those differences, it's nearly impossible to make meaningful inter-country comparisons on infant mortality (which leads to big skews in comparisons of life expectancy at birth, as well). The US still, even accounting for these problems, has relatively high infant mortality among developed nations, but it's hard to say how much higher it is than in other places.


According to Statistics Finland, only liveborn children of people living permanently in Finland are taken into account in population statistics. I'm not certain, but it sounds to me as though they're saying that they don't count in their statistics children born to non-permanent immigrants. My guess is that if we excluded such births from US population statistics, our numbers would also improve dramatically, since we have a huge population of very poor immigrants, both documented and undocumented.
posted by decathecting at 2:55 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


These boxes are wonderful! I love the "we are all in this together" spirit of the program. What a great way for the government to demonstrate in a concrete way that it cares about babies and families. Smart, too, because "healthiest babies possible" programs do improve outcomes for children when they are older, in terms of school readiness, social integration, etc. Definitely worth the investment up front for the payoff down the road.

This article brought back clear memories of my baby brother coming home from the hospital with a cardboard bassinet. It is entirely possible he rode home IN it, balanced on my mother's lap--this was the 1970s, and people were more laissez-faire about car seats and seat belts. I should ask my parents if the cardboard bassinet actually contained anything like what comes in the Finnish box. I just remember being given the empty box to play with, and making it into a crib for my dolls and stuffed animals.

Re: books for babies programs: The public libraries in my province recently reinstated a program through which each family with a newborn receives a bag of books when they leave the hospital. One of my friends, a librarian, was actually responsible for choosing the books and putting the bags together. She said it was one of the best parts of her job. (Here is an interesting article about the low cost and high social/health reward of books for babies type programs.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm 3.5 months pregnant right now, and I've had a hell of a lot of nightmares about losing the baby and other horrible things. The single good dream that I've had in the last 14 weeks was that I received a mystery FedEx shipment and it turned out to be once of those boxes, somehow sent to me all the way from Finland. I felt so special.
posted by Cygnet at 3:56 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


We had our first child in Cambridge, MA, and every new family received a box of books from the library.

OMG, really?? My baby will be born in Cambridge, MA! Now I really *do* feel special!
posted by Cygnet at 4:07 PM on June 4, 2013


According to Statistics Finland, only liveborn children of people living permanently in Finland are taken into account in population statistics. I'm not certain, but it sounds to me as though they're saying that they don't count in their statistics children born to non-permanent immigrants. My guess is that if we excluded such births from US population statistics, our numbers would also improve dramatically, since we have a huge population of very poor immigrants, both documented and undocumented.

'Permanently living in Finland' doesn't mean 'not an immigrant', though. It definitely excludes people in transit, presumably excludes people like diplomats, people with unresolved asylum claims and foreign students, but presumably not immigrants and refugees who, as far as the government knows, will or could remain indefinitely. Finland has poor people too, they just have better access to things that would reduce infant mortality. The first paragraph of your comment that you quoted explains how the US over-counts infant deaths relative to other countries. I would assume that's the source of extra disparity, not immigration.
posted by hoyland at 4:17 PM on June 4, 2013


What's really valuable is a state that sees value in caring for all aspects of having and raising a child.

What's really valuable is a population of about 6 million really ridiculously white people who all speak the same language, have the same cultural background, and who all identify as Finnish and not just as citizens of a nation called Finland.


Eh?!? Of course there are black Finns, what else did you have in mind? Finland is still technically in Europe you know, it hasn't been assigned its own planet just yet.
posted by tel3path at 5:11 PM on June 4, 2013


I don't know if this has been said already, only halfway through the thread, but in the US (depending on where you live) you could very well get formula/diapers/onsies and so on when you leave the hospital after giving birth. I did a L&D rotation at a hospital that did this.

That's not at all on par with what the Finns are doing, but I'm just addressing the "we could NEVER give any new mothers anything in the US because of the hew and cry." Depends where you live and what hospital system you give birth in.
posted by syncope at 5:24 PM on June 4, 2013


I swear that this article is one of the most touching things I have read in my entire life.
posted by mynameisluka at 5:51 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


> That's not at all on par with what the Finns are doing

Not even comparable, in my experience -- it was all advertising crap. The health of my babies, or of me, wasn't the motivation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:09 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"According to Statistics Finland, only liveborn children of people living permanently in Finland are taken into account in population statistics. I'm not certain, but it sounds to me as though they're saying that they don't count in their statistics children born to non-permanent immigrants. My guess is that if we excluded such births from US population statistics, our numbers would also improve dramatically, since we have a huge population of very poor immigrants, both documented and undocumented."

And then we have THL:s statistics, which count all births in Finland:

"According to Statistics Finland, live births amounted to 59 961 in 2011. According to THL's Medical Birth Register, the corresponding figure was 60 094. The discrepancy between Statistics Finland and THL is due to differences in registration criteria. Statistics Finland gathers data on all children born whose mother has a permanent domicile in Finland at the time of the child’s birth whatever the place of delivery, while THL's Medical Birth Register includes data on all children born in Finland."

With THL:s data for 2011 (latest available, using that 60 094 live births):
Stillbirths: 2.7 / 1000
Died before 7 days: 1.3 / 1000
Infant mortality (less than 1y excluding stillbirths) 2.1 / 1000

In Wikipedia's Infant Mortality page CIA Factbook estimates Finland's for Infant mortality (excluding stillbirths) to be 3.8 / 1000 at 2013, WHO 2.8 between 2005-2010. We do better than that.

"In the US, any baby who is fully expelled from its mother and then takes a breath, has a heartbeat, makes a voluntary movement, or displays any other signs of life, is counted as a live birth, regardless of gestational age, size, or how soon afterwards the baby may stop exhibiting signs of life. If the baby then dies, that's counted as an infant death. By contrast, many other countries have minimum size requirements (length or weight; in Canada, the baby must weigh more than 500 grams at birth), a minimum length of time the child must live (in Japan, for example, a baby who dies in the first 24 hours after birth is counted as a miscarriage, not an infant death), or a minimum gestational age (in most EU countries, a baby born before 26 weeks, even if born breathing, counts as a miscarriage if it doesn't survive)."

You can raise doubt, but data descriptions reject these too(last appendix): "The Medical Birth Register includes data on all live births, and on stillbirths of foetuses with a birth weight of at least 500 g or with a gestational age of at least 22+0 weeks." And live birth is defined thus (p.26): "Birth of a child that, irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy or weight at birth, breathes or shows any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or movement of the voluntary muscles, whether or not the placenta is attached or the umbilical cord has been cut."

So these weight/age issues would come to play only when deciding between stillbirth and miscarriage. This is irrelevant for infant mortality, because it doesn't count either of them. Infant mortality rate 2.1/1000 applies to any baby who shows any signs of life, irrespective of weight or age, born from any parent who happens to give birth in Finland and it is good.
posted by Free word order! at 6:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just addressing the "we could NEVER give any new mothers anything in the US because of the hew and cry." Depends where you live and what hospital system you give birth in.

I think the point was that the US could never have a Federally funded program like that.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:34 PM on June 4, 2013


When my daughter was born, I got a surprise in the mail. My local library system was offering four free books to baby along with a nicely designed pamphlet about reading to your children. You signed up your baby for a library card and you got a little punch card for the book. Each visit, you got another book to take home and keep. I thought it was utterly charming. But, here's the silly part, it actually did make a difference in my attitude towards books and my infant. I am a book-loving book nerd raised by similar bookish people who told me that I could read any book I wanted and they would always get me any book I wanted. But, I felt that reading to an infant was a bit much. They just aren't so interactive and it felt like a bit of wasted time. But with these books, I wasn't so attached with them. They were free and so I didn't worry about my baby playing with them and slobbering on them. Three of the four were her favorite books for a very long time. I have probably read them each over 100 times. And, it was rewarding and she did respond and she loves books (though the genetics were going to lean her that way no matter what). It made me feel really positive about the library and books in her life and if it can do that for me, an over-educated person with lots of resources, I hope that the program did that for many people of all different backgrounds.

I suspect that the program comes and goes or doesn't get around as much depending on where they gave birth and whether that info is in some kind of public database as I know a few other moms who got the books and others who didn't see anything like that.

I think this project in Finland is a great idea. We are so mired in petty squabbles here on planet Earth. Something like this, people doing something that supports, nurtures and which recognizes other people in a direct way, it's... so sweet. It's what we can do best if only we let ourselves.
posted by amanda at 7:41 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


But they never explain precisely what it is about differing cultural backgrounds that poses such a problem.

When pressed, someone on reddit explained to me how the US has social programs just like the ones elsewhere, but somehow the poor folk won't use them... and smart people too, they just don't work! and besides, how can we expect the US to doe this will all the illegals?

Then someone else helpfully referenced some classically inner city US areas were obviously this would be wasted.

I think I am going to stop posting on reddit.
posted by Phalene at 7:43 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is awesome. In fact, I kind of resent not having been born in Finland now.
posted by bardic at 9:49 PM on June 4, 2013


I am surprised something like this isn't more common. In my municipality in Canada all new parents get a home visit from a public health nurse who brings a package of things like diapers, breast feeding supplies (nursing pads), books on parenting and board books for the baby and information about how to get more free items and services and what all the free local social outlets for new mums are (like the Ontario Early Years Centres and library programmes). There is a long conversation where the nurse makes recommendations on what she observes/the client requests in terms of referrals to other needed services like subsidized child care and post partum support for mothers that may be at risk for PPD. My neighbour had PPD with her first and was given free housekeeping help, free respite care and a daily visitor as support. This was on top of the midwive's home visits. The programmes at the Ontario Early Years Centres, especially those that teach traditional songs to new parents (including again, free books to keep as well as CDs and DVDs to help learn the songs) are hugely popular. Ironically, the OEYC were introduced by a Conservative government. It is neat to see how the attendance at the programmes really covers the whole socio-economic spectrum and is very inclusive of all family types.
posted by saucysault at 3:56 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for the bag of supplies for starting school, my children got the same - and it was a nice cloth bag with their name written on it so they already felt it belonged to them. I buy minimal supplies for my children going to school - the school provides everything they need generally.
posted by saucysault at 4:02 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


They get cash from the government too, right? Otherwise how will they afford baby's first 55" plasma and a new mags for the Falcodore?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:32 AM on June 5, 2013


More so than the people in any other country I have been in. Yet at a group level America is meaner than just about every other nation. Many other countries have this flipped and are individually mean and cold while having generous national policies.

I experienced exactly this living in Iceland and Germany. And it's why I'm pro my fellow Americans, even if I'm not pro the USA in general. It's not that the people are mean, per se, but there's a closed offedness that feels very cold to an outsider - even one raised by the descendants of Swedish immigrants who could not be confused for the jolliest people alive.

Whenever Scandinavian countries' awesome social policies come up, inevitably someone chimes in with "I want to move there!" and I think - "Yeah, spend a winter and get back to me on that." When asked about living in Iceland, my response is invariably "It was cold, and I don't mean just the weather."

On another note, the US hospitals' goody bags o' formula are the exact opposite of what a breastfeeding mother needs and in no way equivalent to the Finnish box. If you want to use formula, great. If you don't, it's worse than a very expensive waste of time - it's undermining breastfeeding. Anyhow, the basic difference here is that the end goal in Finland is government support of families. In the US, it's private corporations trying to boost sales and sabotage any attempts to avoid their products.
posted by sonika at 4:38 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to use formula, great. If you don't, it's worse than a very expensive waste of time - it's undermining breastfeeding.

Not necessarily.

I love love love the idea of the baby box. So cute! But in the US, where there's so much income inequality, poor access to health care, and high teenaged pregnancy, I'd rather spend tax dollars on improving maternal health overall. A box and free infant clothes are fairly accessible (not to mention you'd want something that works with your local climate anyway). This strikes me as a first world solution to a first world "problem." Sadly, our healthcare system is not there yet for too many Americans.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kenya just announced free maternal healthcare.
posted by infini at 7:26 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was reading this with no need to comment, till I suddenly realized - oh no - there is this epony-something. I must comment!
What I'd like to comment is that the most important result of this concept is that it reaches all mothers to be, and gets them into the medical and social system. Finnish babies in boxes are babies at home, being cared for. In the rest of the world, including many other welfare states, babies in boxes are abandoned children. I'm really impressed by the wide reach of this program.
posted by mumimor at 1:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, my kids go to public school and it's the public school system that gave them the cloth bag at orientation.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


prize bull octorok: "US VERSION

"Welcome to America, kid. Here's your box."

[Inside are a pair of bootstraps]
"

Wrong. In America, we make our own bootstraps. What kind of commie are you, prize bull octorok?
posted by Deathalicious at 7:25 PM on June 8, 2013


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