BY LISA GUTIERREZ
After the first of the year, Scottish babies will go home from the hospital with “starter kits,” courtesy of the government.
Scotland borrowed the idea from Finland, which has given its expectant mothers care packages full of clothing, diapers, toys and other newborn necessities for nearly 80 years.
The boxes of goodies are a “symbol of a belief in a level playing field” for all children, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, according to The Independent.
Mothers in a pilot program will get the boxes beginning Jan. 1, with all moms receiving them starting next summer, Sturgeon told an audience at the Scottish National Party’s conference in Glasgow.
“We promised a baby box of all essential items for all newborns. It’s a policy borrowed from Finland where it’s contributed to the lowest rates of child mortality in the world,” she said, noting that a competition for the design of the box will begin in November.
The sturdy cardboard Finnish Baby Boxes are big enough to hold a newborn and come with a built-in mattress so the baby can sleep in it instead of sharing a bed with mom and dad.
Finnish parents are advised to let their babies sleep on their backs in the boxes in the same room as their parents. Babies typically sleep in the boxes for the first three to four months of their lives.
The Guardian reported in April that the box program is credited with cutting the Finnish infant death rate from 10 percent to 0.2 percent, said to be one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Scotland’s current infant death rate, 0.37 percent, is already low, noted The Guardian.
Sturgeon said the boxes are part of a larger campaign to support poorer mothers in the country.
“The baby box is such a simple idea but has been shown to have a real impact, reducing child mortality and helping families at the start of a child’s life,” she said in announcing the program, reported The Daily Record in Glasgow.
“By providing every newborn with a baby box, we can help child health – and by providing greater support to new families, we will also help to tackle child poverty and improve the chances of some of our most deprived children.”
“Our manifesto will set out plans to transform Scotland and to ensure all our children have an equal start in life.”
South Africa, Zambia and Argentina also have baby box programs, according to the Daily Record.