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Introducing the Finnish maternity package.

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Finnish maternity package, maternity, paternity, newborn, birth, pregnancy, Finland, Finniish, infant mortality, maternal mortality, healthcare
Here I am, struggling to hold a ‘Finnish maternity package’. These things are great; a wonderful way for a nation to welcome its newest citizens into the world.

Finland; a Nordic nation with a small population, short winter days and long winter nights. A nation famous for giving us Nokia, the Moomins and Lordi, the outrageous rock group who won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest.

It’s also a nation with one of the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. This has largely been put down to a generous “maternity package” and maternal health system provided to all mothers.

Lordi, Finland, Finnish Maternity Package, Finland
Finnish rock band and Eurovision 2016 winners Lordi. A CD box set of the group’s greatest hits does NOT come as part of the maternity package. I cannot imagine why.

It’s a system that was introduced in 1938, when Finland was a relatively poor, agrarian nation. The aim was simply to ensure that every child had an equal start in life.

So what exactly is this maternity package? To see in detail, please click on the link below to watch a short video I have made. It shows me unpacking the box, item by item. Alternatively, please do read on.

Every pregnant woman (…more about men and same sex couples in just a moment) is offered a package containing a variety of items you need for a new born child. There are clothes, a towel, thermometer, nail scissors, sheets, sleeping bag and so on. There are also items for mum; nipple pads, liners, nipple cream and, not forgetting dad, condoms.

Why condoms? Well, you may not want to go having a baby immediately after the arrival of a child so you have a few prophylactics on hand as birth control.

Finnish Maternity Package, Nokia, Moomins, Lordi
Here is the Finnish Maternity Package with the lid removed. I’m sure you will agree it contains an impressive array of items (it was, by the way, packed better than this on arrival. It just so happens m y daughters had raided the box shortly before I took this picture!) .

There is one further genius aspect to this package. The box itself is lined at the bottom with a foam mattress so the cardboard carton can be used as a bed. Yes that’s right, many Finnish babies start their days sleeping in a cardboard box. Back in 1938 when the maternity package was introduced, many homes didn’t have a clean place where the infant could sleep and the tradition has stuck.

To qualify for a maternity package, a woman has to make contact with a medical professional before the fourth month of pregnancy. This rule was introduced in 1949 and it has remained in place.

This provided a powerful incentive for women to seek medical help during pregnancy. This helped reduce both the infant and maternal mortality rate and it has remained low by international standards to this very day.

The contents of the box have changed over time. For instance, disposable nappies are no longer included so as to reduce landfill waste. Also, the clothes must come in gender neutral colours. This is partly because Finland is very big on gender equality but it also means you can hand down clothes to your next child, regardless of whether they are a boy or girl.

Finnish Maternity Package, clothes, gender neutral, gender neutral colours, gender neutrality
The one thing you do not buy a newborn Finnish child is clothes. The maternity package is full of them. Here are two items from the package. Note the gender neutral colours.

On the subject of gender neutrality, the one quibble I have is that it’s still refereed to as a maternity package when many of the items will be used by mum and dad, especially as Finland has a very good system of shared parental leave. I cannot help feeling it is a baby package and not a maternity package. Finland has recognised same sex unions since 2002 and has a law on the statute books permitting same sex marriage from 2017. To many it may be a minor point, but maybe the language needs to be revisited?

snow suit, Lordi, Finnish Maternity Package,
This snow suit is also included in the package. It was a big hit with my daughters.

That point aside, I have to say I was very impressed by the maternity package. The attention to detail was very high. The quality of the contents was also very good. It struck me as a great way for a Government to welcome its newest citizens into the world.

What do you think? Do you like the look of the maternity package? Would you have found it useful? Does it demonstrate the Finns have better social policies than us Brits? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to know.

At my request, a Finnish maternity package was loaned to me by the Embassy of Finland in London and the Finnish Institute in London, a non-profit trust that seeks to identity modern trends in society and encourage cross border working between Finland, the UK and Republic of Ireland. Thanks to both for their assistance.

 

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51 thoughts on “Introducing the Finnish maternity package.”

  1. I remember reading about the Finish Maternity (should be baby or parent) box when I was pregnant and felt very jealous! What a wonderful selection of goods to ensure that the newborn baby is looked after, safe and appropriately clothed. I think it would be wonderful if something similar was done here even if only for those on benefits (how on earth would we fund it after all!)
    Thanks for sharing, I’m very impressed you managed to get the loan.

    1. I think the UK could fund this if it offered parents practical help such as subsidised childcare instead of paying tax credits and benefits. It what the Danes do and they have a much more equal society. We really should be learning from other nations.

    1. Was it the BBC thing you read? The Beeb did something a couple of years ago which I had read so I was familiar with the concept. The quality of the items really is superb. This isn’t cheap stuff the Finns give their people.

  2. Catie: An imperfect mum

    Just asked hubby because we definitely got a package in holland too. Not sure if it came from the government or the local boots equivalent to get you to use their products though?! We definitely didn’t get all of those fab clothes though thats for sure. ?

    1. Well, in the UK you receive the Bounty package. I remember thinking that was amazing when my first child arrived. And then I saw the Finnish equivalent. The Finns win, hands down.

  3. I remember reading about the babies sleeping in the boxes a while back. Why not? With a lined box I bet they sleep so well. I think it’s a fabulous incentive to help women seek help and also for people who have no idea what to buy and need that support. Condoms is actually genius…I could not imagine getting pregnant so quickly (crazy face pulled) The snow suit is brilliant. x twinkytuesday

    1. Ah yes, the condoms. When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had George, the Finns sent the royal couple a maternity package. The UK’s excitable (….in fairness, the international) media created a hulabaloo on the basis that British royals had been sent condoms. Imagine, a young married couple in their thirties celebrating the birth of their first child and receiving condoms??? “Horse” and “bolted” spring to mind!

  4. I’d love to be a fly on the wall at a baby group in Finland with all the babies dressed identically! Really cool of Finland though but I can’t imagine how it would be affordable in this country given the population difference. I guess there is the idea of ‘just for those on benefits’ but I can see a problem with class divide if you could be picked out as ‘benefit street’ when someone spies a ‘government issue’ Babygro…. Having had a quick peek on Google and your little video I have to agree that the attention to detail and fact that the clothes have colour and patterns and personality (can see Britain giving plain white stuff!) is lovely and what with the snowsuit/sleeping bag etc., so, so generous. Makes our Bounty Bags look a bit shabby that’s for sure – and not a marketing leaflet or product placement in sight! Amazing.

    1. Did you know that in Australia if you have five kids you automatically get given a people carrier by the Government??? Apparently they are all one make and model and it’s not exactly considered a status symbol. Anyway. moving on to other things, I reckon the UK could afford this if we reconfigured how we spend our money. We’re one of the most generous OECD nations spending 3.6% of our GDP on families. I can’t do a comparison with Finland, but Denmark spends 3.7% and has a much more equal society. The huge difference; we spend all our money on tax credits and benefits, the Danes offer state subsidised childcare and generous shared parental leave packages. If we tinkered with our spending, I think we could provide such a thing. And your comment about Bounty bags…..exactly what my wife said!

    1. Interesting….you can if you wish take cash instead of having the maternity package. If you do, however, you get something like EU170. Not too surprisingly, most people opt for the package!

  5. Great idea and I have read about this before. Not sure how it would translate here with the population difference but essentially it gives you everything you need to start out. Makes you realise just how much ‘stuff’ we get for baby which we really don’t need. I love the idea of baby sleeping in a box. So practical. #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Well, I can’t draw a direct comparison with Finland, but the Danes spend 3.7% of their GDP on the family. The UK spends 3.6%. This means both nations rank highly in terms of OECD countries and what they spend on families. The Danes spend their money on practical solutions such as childcare and a good shared parental leave package. The UK spends all its money on tax credits and benefits. If the UK simply reconfigured the way it spent its money, we might be in much happier place and that could include a package like this.

  6. Annette, 3 Little Buttons

    I have heard about these packages before, and think these are a brilliant idea. Amazing amount of items that are included. #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Oh yes, amazing number of items and all very good quality. The knock-on effect on infant / maternal mortality is stunning.

    1. It is an awesome concept. The Finns seem so proud of these boxes. And what do the Brits have; Bounty.

  7. Hello from Finland! We here really love these boxes, I have two kids (1 and 4) and have had two boxes! Some families choose money for their other kids instead of maternity box but i wanted it for both kids. Kela (the distributor of boxed) change the items every one or two years so my kids boxes had different clothes etc. But the basic items stay the same (thermometer, mattress..). It’S always on the news when Kela introduces the new box :). Everyone are really excited to see what colour and style the clothes are that year.

    Thanks a lot for your post 🙂 and the video was great also!

    1. Fascinating how popular the boxes are. I imagine there would be uproar if they were ever scrapped. What can I say, great work Finland and glad you liked the video.

  8. I used to sleep in a box like this (I’m a Finn you see…). They really are a fab idea and great to see this post! I was so gutted as I couldn’t get this box for my daughter, as I had moved away from Finland long before I got pregnant. They are a lovely way for the government to welcome a new little person in the world (and of course, good for public health too!).

    1. It’s a great piece of social policy and I’m rapidly learning you Finns do social policy well. Shame you cou;dn’t get one although I have heard of a British company selling replicas.

  9. The release of a new package is somewhat a happening in Finland, social media getting filled with pictures and reviews. What’s new this year? Are the colours nice? Whar colour is the snowsuit and sleeping bag? This year a new bunny toy was well liked. Also this year there even was a press event on the release day.
    We made a video showing this year’s box. I think the box is great this year. Too bad I’m not having a baby!
    http://www.vauva.fi/artikkeli/lapsi/vauva_ja_taapero/tassa_on_aitiyspakkaus_2016_esittelemme_videolla_koko_paketin

    1. Thanks Anna. I shall be watching the video in just a moment. Amazing to hear how popular the boxes are in Finland. I can understand why though. They’re very well put together.

  10. Soon to be mother of 2

    As a Finn I never get tired seeing someone promoting this! I have saved all the items and the box and will pass it on to my child when she grows up. And yes, I will get a box for my unborn baby and pass it on as well.

    1. It certainly seems you Finns are very proud of the maternity package. Great to hear a piece of social policy proving so popular.

  11. I love that maternity package we get here in Finland! It has so much good stuff in it that help the parents to welcome the baby.

    You talked about the name, though. A media person here in Finland, Marja Hintikka, who has her own talk show on tv about family life, made a suggestion to the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services about changing the package’s name to baby package instead of maternity package. We’ll see how it goes from there.

    Oh, and the first thermometer you showed in the video: that’s for the temperature of the baby’s bath water so that it’s not too hot for the baby.

    1. Ah, I did wonder if the thermometer was for bath water. Oh well, my apologies to Finland! I thikn the package is such a great idea but I will be supporting Marja Hintikka in her campaign to get the name changed.

      1. Haha, no apologies needed 😀 I’ve heard from my friends who already have babies that they use the thermometer once and then forget it 🙂

  12. What a fantastic idea. In the Netherlands new parents get someone who comes every day to support them and teach them the skills they need to to look after a new born for the first few weeks. We could learn so much from how other countries support new parents 🙂 Really interesting. Thank you for sharing

    1. That is such a good idea the DUtch have. I think very little of parenting is instinct. So much of it is learned and to have someone visit every day for a few weeks is an excellent idea.

  13. I love this idea and sure wish I had something like that for our first child. We received many lovely gifts at our baby shower but too often, mothers and fathers-to-be aren’t gifted necessities. I’ve also found many of my friends and family asking “What on earth do I put on my registry? What do I need?” The maternity box (you’re right, it should be called a baby box) covers that and is truly wonderful. I believe many countries would benefit from such an item. #sharewithme

    1. Glad you agree about the name. This box does seem to cover all the necessities. If yu want to go above and beyong what is in the box then great, but it’s nice than you don’t have to. And dads will use this stuff as much as mums I think.

    1. My wife made a comment about Bounty after seeing the maternity package. I fear I can’t repeat what she said here, it was a touch rude! Anyway, yes, this is such a simple idea and executed so well by the Finns.

  14. I was lucky enough as a Finn got sent it back to UK by my mother who was able to BUY it for me back 2008. It is unfortunately not possible anymore to get it abroad but was very useful for me as new mum. Many mums take a new box (alternative you can have money instead) after every child as colors and content vary every year (you can tell when child was born by the colors!) because it is really worth every penny For the box you can buy “ready made” curtains to make it look pretty like cot too. Finnish mums (and babies) are very lucky indeed 🙂

    1. Well, this blog post has had an amazing response so I think it shows how popular an idea this is. Finland is doing something amazing with these packages.

  15. I read about this a while ago and think it is fabulous … although Moses basket manufacturers might not think so! I also believe it is infinitely better than that stupid Bounty Bag you get which is, as far as I can see, just a way of companies trying to make you believe that you cannot possibly raise baby without their products. Most of it went into the bin and I flatly refused to take one with baby number 2.

    1. Reading these comments, I have to say that Bounty really does have an image problem. I guess you’re right about Moses basket producers. Thing is, baby can only sleep in the box for so long so maybe most Finn buy one in the end?

  16. The UK could definitely do something like this. Bounty packages – and reps – are awful and I refused to let one near me with both my children! My Finnish friend received one of these recently was so delighted. I remember thinking it somehow set about as positive-a tone as you could get for a new baby being born. Fingers crossed – shared paternity leave might be a step towards this sort of thing being considered here. #MMWBH

    1. Ah yes, Bounty. Wasn’t too impressed with the Bounty rep when my second was born. The Finns are defo on to something here.

  17. This would be so brilliant- especially to first time mums who find the remembering of what they need to buy a little overwhelming! I would love to receive this when having a baby and I love the idea that all children start out life with the same. We have a lot to learn over here!! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. *coughs* and first time dads! You are right though, it is great to know there is no favouritism and all Finish kids start off with the same items.

  18. Wow that is amazing that every mother gets one of these and the package seems to have checked all boxes. I think every country should do this. What a great idea coming together as a nation to help those just coming into the world. Great video too. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    1. Thanks Jenny, it is such a great way for a nation to welcome new arrivals. Glad you liked the video. Many moe of these ot come in the following weeks and months.

  19. I have heard about these boxes and I had a fair idea of what would be in them, but WOW, I am super surprised how much that is actually in them! All so useful and how lucky are new parents in Finland to be supplied with such an amazing package. It sort of puts our wee Bounty package to shame, eh! Great post & video John! Thanks so much for linking up to the #MadMidWeek Linky!

    1. Oh Bounty is a different league, and I don’t mean Premiership either. The FInnish do this stuff and do it well, but they 80 years of experience behind them!

  20. You wrote yourself that “[t]o qualify for a maternity package, a woman has to make contact with a medical professional before the fourth month of pregnancy”. I think this explains the name as it is still the health of the mother that is the most important thing to the health of the baby being born and the package exists so that the expecting MOTHER will visit the doctor. It is also important to check the physical (and mental) well being of the mother at the maternity clinic after giving birth and discuss things like breast feeding. No matter how involved the father (or the other mother) is, (s)he can’t replace the (actual) mother in that regard. What is in the actual package is more like extra after everything else has been taken care of.

    So while I think that fathers can and should take an equal part in caring for the baby (my father did), when it comes to the initial health matters and possible problems, they are still very much a maternity, not paternity, issue because she’s the one who is pregnant and gives birth. (For example something like this in other countries probably wouldn’t be enough to get expecting mothers who are addicted to drugs to seek help but it would be great if it did. Taking care of the mother one gives a better chance for the baby to be born healthy.) So if you think about it like that, I think the current name is justifiable.

    1. Yes indeed, this is a very valid point. I am, nonetheless, going to politely disagree with you! I assume same sex couples can adopt in Finland? That being the case, who fulfills the maternity role when an infant is adopted by a couple of guys? It’ll be a man.

      Not, you understand, that I’m downplaying the significance of the mother or her health. I guess if a change of name discouraged women from coming forward it would justify the status quo. Language is very important when it comes to parenting and anything that could be perceived as suggesting mums are more important than dads should be challenged.

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  22. We took two of these boxes to our twin daughters ten years ago and girls slept their first months in the boxes. It was so funny to listen their rustling before falling asleep, sounds like a grab in the box. One very useful item was the sleeping bag as many children here love to take their nap outdoor.

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