Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 5th 2016 Contents A22
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Nearly three years ago, the BBC Magazine reported
on the Finnish baby box---a starter kit of clothes,
sheets and toys the state gives to expectant mothers.
The story went viral and was read by ten million
people in 18 months.
Now the box idea itself is spreading around the
world. It s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s.
Every new mother, regardless of background or income,
gets a baby box from the government. The box contains
a stash of supplies---bibs, bodysuits, nappies, a sleeping
bag, outdoor gear, bathing products---as well as a small
mattress. Putting the mattress in the bottom of the
box creates the baby s first bed.
It has been credited with helping Finland achieve
one of the world s lowest infant mortality rates.
More publicity for the idea quickly followed when
the Finnish government gave a baby box to the Duke
and Duchess of Cambridge, who were then expecting
their first child.
Soon afterwards, three fathers in Finland set up a
business to supply boxes to customers all over the
world. Two women in the US did the same thing.
There is now a similar business in the UK, and there
may be others elsewhere.
It was such a simple idea, and apparently so effective,
that health professionals and social entrepreneurs also
wanted to put the box to the test.
Often the contents of the box or the way it is dis-
tributed are designed to address local problems, from
preventing infection to getting the baby out of the
parents bed, where there may be a risk of suffocation.
And in some cases one of the key goals is---as it was
in Finland in the early days---to encourage expectant
mothers to attend antenatal clinics.
Two South African entrepreneurs, Ernst Hertzog
of Action Hero Ventures and marketing executive
Frans de Villiers, concluded that a plastic box, that
can be used as a bath rather than a bed, was more
useful for South African mothers.
But the main objective was to get mothers to ante-
natal classes, and a trial carried out by a team from
Stellenbosch University last year concluded that the
Thula Baba Box, as it is known, encourages mothers
to attend clinics at an earlier stage of pregnancy, and
to attend more frequently. Among other things, this
reduces the risk of an HIV-positive mother dying in
childbirth, and reduces the risk of HIV being passed
from the mother to the baby.
De Villiers and Hertzog are keen for the project to
be rolled out across the Western Cape region, and
hope that it may one day become a national pro-
"We thought the Finnish box was an amazing exam-
ple of design that changed a nation, says Hertzog.
We hope that, given some tweaks, our product will
have just as much of an impact.
A doctoral student at Harvard University, Karima
Ladhani, had a similar idea about adapting the Finnish
box for use in South Asia. She developed the Barakat
Bundle project which has now swung into operation
at a rural hospital in Jagadiya, India. The box includes
a clean-birth kit to prevent infection during or soon
after delivery and a mosquito net to protect babies
But it s not just in developing countries where infant
mortality is a concern. A baby box project is also
about to get under way in Australia, in the state of
Victoria, and the province of Alberta in Canada has
been running a pilot project since October 2015.
Karen Benzies, a professor of nursing at the Uni-
versity of Calgary, says the original intention was to
target vulnerable families, but they soon realised "the
idea of vulnerability that most people have around
low income doesn t necessarily hold true in Alberta".
It s a province that has done well out of the oil and
gas industry, but when men stay away working on
oil rigs for weeks at a time, that creates a different
kind of problem---as new mothers are left alone with
a new baby.
A key element of this is mentoring. Every mother
and father has to identify a mentor who agrees to be
in contact ---via phone or in person---about 20 times
from when the mother is 32 weeks pregnant to six
months after the birth.
So far about 50 boxes have been distributed, with
1,500 more ready to go.
Another innovation in the Canadian boxes is a "crib-
side assistance" booklet for fathers, to encourage them
to bond with the child. Modelled on a car-repair
manual it provides a do-it-yourself guide to burping
("You know how good it feels to burp sometimes?")
underlines the importance of "fuel" (mother s milk)
and explains how to "look under the hood" for those
inevitable nappy problems, because "keeping your
new model clean and comfortable is important". (BBC)
Baby box made by the
Finnish Baby Box
Company. The idea has
Why babies all over the world are now sleeping in boxes
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Links Archive April 4th 2016 April 6th 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page