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From Finland with Love: Baby Boxes Come to Alberta

Hailee Barber (2L)

First time parents face enumerable challenges, both terrifying and exciting once they leave the hospital and return home with their newborn baby. A study called the “Welcome to Parenthood Alberta,” developed by the University of Calgary Faculty of Nursing and funded with a $500,000 provincial grant, aims to ease this transition by sending new parents home not only with their bundle of joy, but also an accompanying “baby box.” Based on the baby boxes that have been given to every new mother in Finland for more than 75 years, these cardboard boxes are filled with much needed items for first time parents and their new babies including diapers, receiving blankets, onesies, nursing pads and items that new parents might overlook, such as baby thermometers. Once emptied of these supplies, the baby box doubles as a safety approved bassinet due to the foam mattress included in the bottom.

In addition to being provided with baby boxes parents participating in the study will be connected with a mentor from their own community who will check in with the parents and newborn to offer support and resources as needed. The hope is that this will develop lines of communication early on so that when issues arise first time parents already have an accessible network available to assist them. While for many this type of parenting support network is something they already have thanks to family and friends who are supportive of their new journey as parents, the Welcome to Parenthood Alberta study has the potential to have an immensely positive impact on individuals who may be entering parenthood without a supportive network.

The study is set to include approximately 1,500 families across 11 sites in Alberta. The Finnish program on which this study is based initially only provided baby boxes to low income individuals, but since the late 1940s has made these supplies available to every new mother in the country. Likewise, the Welcome to Parenthood Alberta study will include Albertans from all walks of life and, if successful, has the potential to become a more widespread initiative like Finland’s. The hope is that feedback from this study will help Canada better our own infant mortality rates, which are slightly higher than Finland’s, by starting new parents off on the right foot with the items, information, and support they need. This will hopefully result in healthier and happier babies and parents. As BBC reporter Helena Lee said in a 2013 article regarding the Finnish baby boxes: “the box is a symbol. A symbol of the idea of equality, and of the importance of children.” Although time is needed to determine whether Alberta’s baby boxes will be as successful as Finland’s, sending new parents of all walks of life into the world with a tangible acknowledgment of community support for their new roles bodes well for the next generation of parents and children in Alberta.