In 2013, the BBC published an online magazine article reporting on the Finnish baby box – a maternity package given to expectant mothers containing clothes, sheets, toiletries and nappies. The article was read by 10 million people in 18 months sending a ripple effect across the world inspiring people to pilot distributing baby boxes for their own communities or countries.
The baby box has appeared as The Thula Baba Box in South Africa and the Barakat Bundle in South Asia. This month a trial baby box project is being launched at a hospital in the UK.
However, the phenomenon of the baby box is not a new one. The Finnish government has been making and distributing their boxes for over 75 years. In the 1930s, infant mortality in Finland was high – 65 babies out of 1000 died. But the figures improved vastly in the decades that followed. A recent recipient of the Finnish baby box sent on the occasion of his second daughter’s birth explains, “This felt to me like evidence that someone cared, someone wanted our baby to have a good start in life.”
Compassion’s Child Survival Programme (which has been running for 13 years) focuses on physical survival and stability in those critical early years of life so that mothers living in poverty get to experience that same feeling – someone cares. Someone wants my baby to have a good start in life.
These mums will face countless battles in trying to raise their babies in challenging and demanding circumstances. Their babies will receive access to immunisations, vitamin A supplementation, birth attendants, nutritional support and insecticide-treated nets. A few crucial but basic supplies can literally mean the difference between life and death in the first few days of a baby’s life.
The content of these supplies and their method of distribution will vary between countries and projects, depending on culture, societal norms and healthcare support systems. Supplies are given to expecting mothers as a supplement to income-generating training, spiritual mentoring and emotional support.
In Bolivia, each caregiver registered to the programme receives a family basket once a month which contains items such as cereals, oatmeal, milk, beans, wheat and in some cases, fruit and vegetables. In the case of malnutrition, special nutritional items are offered recommended by nutritionists. Every mother receives a Bible and Child Survival specialists spend at least 2 hours a month with mums and babies during home visits.
In Kenya, food supplements are given to all babies and pregnant mothers including porridge flour, lentils and beans. Pregnant mothers are provided with delivery kits as they wait to deliver their babies in a government health facility, these kits contain a cord clamp, a sterile blade, gloves and cotton and Compassion pays the delivery fee for the pregnant mothers in the program.
Here are some photos of mothers who are registered in Compassion’s Child Survival projects around the world, who have benefitted from their very own “baby box”!
A group of mothers in Rwanda queue to receive their baby supplies from Compassion's Child Survival Programme.
Deysi Pérez from El Salvador. Her newborn kit included a small bathtub, sponge, blanket, bag of nappies, shampoo, lotion, baby oil and baby clothes.
Clothes, bedding, food and toiletries for a new mother in Burkina Faso.
Mothers in Bolivia collecting their baby supplies.
A baby bath full of toothpaste, baby clothes, nappies and talcum powder.