Baby box program, inspired by Finnish tradition, arrives in Ontario
Jennifer Clary (right), co-founder and CEO of The Baby Box Co., presents a new mother with a Finnish-style baby box in Toronto, Ont. on Aug. 29, 2016. (Melissa Trainor/ The Baby Box Co.)
Jennifer Clary wants to put your baby in a box.
“It’s becoming more and more mainstream,” the co-founder and CEO of The Baby Box Co. told CTVNews.ca.
“It’s the most affordable, while being the most eco-conscious, product on the market for infant safe sleep.”
On Monday, The Baby Box Co. began distributing these safe sleeping spaces to expectant Ontario mothers in a free program that will be rolled out across the country by the end of the year.
The cardboard boxes come equipped with a mini mattress, waterproof cover and fitted cotton sheet to create a cosy crib that can help reduce sleep-related causes of infant deaths, such as SIDS. The boxes, which are compliant with Health Canada bassinet regulations, are also filled with a bounty of baby goods, such as diapers and a onesie, giving them a combined retail value of roughly $200.
“When we first launched back in 2013, the North American outlook was a bit like, ‘Oh goodness! You’re sticking a baby in a box? Are you mad?’” Clary says. “Now, when I follow up with families… fewer than five per cent are not using the baby box as a safe sleep space.”
The baby box phenomenon originated in Finland. In 1938, the Nordic nation began distributing baby boxes laden with newborn necessities to low-income expectant mothers. The program, which was extended to all families in 1949, carries on to this day and is widely credited with helping reduce infant mortality rates in Finland from 65 deaths out of 1,000 live births in the 1930s to 1.7 deaths out of 1,000 births today -- one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. According to Statistics Canada, the infant mortality in our country currently sits at is 4.8.
Much like Finland, education is integral to the Canadian program, Clary says, and that’s why her team has created the Baby Box University: an online forum in which healthcare experts teach new parents about everything from nutrition to breastfeeding. If you want a free baby box, you’ll first have to watch a handful of educational videos and complete a short quiz.
“To be totally frank, baby boxes do not reduce infant mortality -- parenting education reduces infant mortality,” Clary says.
“We think that in Ontario, within the next 24 months, we can actually see a reduction not just in infant mortality, but also in postpartum [depression] as well as reports of increased parent contentment and confidence.”
Some 145,000 baby boxes will be distributed in Ontario over the next year. A similar program will be launched in Alberta and Manitoba in October. Expectant mothers across the entire country will be able to get their hands on baby boxes by the end of the year.
If you’re an Ontario resident having a baby between Aug. 1 2016 and Aug. 1, 2017, you can register for your free baby box online at www.babyboxuniversity.com.