A tradition that has helped expectant mothers in Finland since the late 1930s has made its way to Ontario.
Baby Box Canada is a non-profit organization that's taken inspiration from the Scandinavian country where every expectant mother can receive a cash grant of 140 euros to help care for their newborn baby, or opt for a baby box – with a number of useful items including clothes, a teething toy, a bath towel and other important items. Ninety-five per cent of families in Finland choose the box and its contents, which is worth much more than the cash grant.
Many health experts believe the Finnish baby boxes, which were first introduced in 1938, helped the country achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates.
When Romi and Edward Walker read about Finland's baby boxes in a Globe and Mail article they were inspired to bring something similar to Canada.
“When we had our son, we were trying to figure out the sorts of things we needed,” Edward said.
Like many new parents they had to navigate a sea of brands for all sorts of baby products, and learned quickly that items like regular shampoo weren't appropriate for a baby.
“As a new parent, it can be overwhelming,” he said.
They decided to approach many of the biggest brands for baby products – like Fisher Price and Philips, and asked if they would donate their products for a Canadian baby box.
Edward said the companies needed to be sure there would be a demand for the boxes, so they launched Baby Box Canada and started to gauge interest.
The initial goal was to get 5,000 families to register, but they surpassed that in a matter of days.
Now, just a week before the first boxes are scheduled for shipping, more than 76,000 families have registered for the baby boxes online.
Baby Box Canada will start with a launch in Ontario, but Edward said they have plans to expand nationally.
Any expectant parents can apply for the boxes free of charge. They just have to let Baby Box Canada know where they live, when their baby is due to arrive, and, if they wish, the baby's gender.
Edward said they aim to get the boxes to parents by the time the babies are born.
Each box comes with 16 products, including tear-free shampoo and body wash from Burt's Bees, teethers and a rattle from Fisher Price, saline wipes from Boogie Wipes and disposable night breast pads from Philips Avent.
Each box is valued at more than $150.
Families can apply for one box per child, and Edward said they have plans to expand to milestone boxes, when the baby turns six months and 12 months.
“There are other programs out there from different organizations that distribute products to expectant parents, but what makes us different is that we're not-for-profit and parents see us as that ambassador between the brand and them,” Edward said.