The Finnish Baby Box? What about the Malaysian Baby Box?

So Daniel recently told me about this thing where Finnish moms are given a "baby box" or "maternity box" when they give birth. Naturally, I had to find out more.

Image credit: The Baby Box Co.

Apparently, since 1938, all Finnish mothers have been given a box full of baby items upon delivering or adopting their babies. The box even comes with a mattress at the bottom, making it baby's first crib! According to BBC News, mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it's worth much more. Mothers in Finland can apply for the box online or by mail.

Image credit: KELA

So what's in the box? Well, Finnish social security institution KELA updates the contents every year, but they generally contain the following:
  • Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
  • Box itself doubles as a crib
  • Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
  • Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
  • Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
  • Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colours and patterns
  • Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth
  • Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
  • Picture book and teething toy
  • Bra pads, condoms

Not bad at all! I think the two most interesting things I found out about the whole Finnish baby box tradition is this:

  1. It has helped in lowering infant mortality rates in the country
  2. Most of the contents are made by Finnish companies

This made me think about how it could affect the mothers and babies here in Malaysia, as well as the infant product companies here. I have given birth once in the US where I did get a "package" from the hospital but it was really only diapers and formula - no thanks! - and once in Malaysia where I got a package of leftover diapers from our stay, and a toiletry bag for myself. It was a private hospital, so I don't know what mothers who deliver at government hospitals receive. I'm fairly certain adoptive mothers don't get anything at all.

I'm sure I'd be accused of over-simplifying here, but wouldn't a baby box be a better use of our taxes compared to handouts of free money to our abject poor? Which are mostly patriarchal communities where the money may not be necessarily funnelled into the care of female community members? I still stand by my opinion that "it's better to teach a man to fish" but since the government insists on giving away taxpayer's money, I think this is an option to consider.

Of course, there is the fact that our medical care (hence, also our maternal care) is subsidised in government hospitals, so new parents are already able to save lots of money compared to other countries (read: the US) where your only option would be private medical institutions. But I still think a standard maternity box would prove beneficial in the long run, since the government helps both individual family units as well as Malaysian entrepreneurs.

Just today, I read in the paper that Singaporean babies born next year will receive a specially-designed suitcase worth SGD50 that contains a Jubilee medallion, a shawl, a baby sling (!!!), a set of baby clothes, a diaper bag, a scrapbook, a photo frame, and a set of baby books. I have no idea where the items are sourced, but still, it's nice to know that this is happening so close to home!

If I were to be asked what I'd include in a Malaysian Baby Box, it would be:
  • Unisex clothes, socks, and mittens
  • Cloth diapers/kain lampin
  • Baby-safe detergent
  • Baby towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth (copying the Finnish version here)
  • Baby sling, and a copy of Babywearing Made Simple (maybe translated? Why not?) ;D
  • Gentle baby soap
  • Parenting books/booklets about breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, baby car safety, and hygiene (I know for a fact that the first and last ones can help save the government a lot of money by reducing infant and child sickness in rural communities).

So, what do you think? Is there anything else that should be added to this hypothetical Malaysian baby box?