New study on baby box programmes around the world: Already 60 countries have adopted their own version of this Finnish innovation

The study provides new information on how varied the baby box programmes are in different countries.

The baby box is no longer exclusively an entitlement of parents living in Finland. An international team of researchers looking at non-commercial baby box programmes around the world found a total of 91 programmes in 60 different countries.

Postdoctoral researcher Annariina Koivu of Tampere University says that many already know that all Scottish families expecting a child receive a baby box. There is however, an extensive baby box programme also in Chile, where all who give birth in a publicly funded hospital get a baby box.

Many programmes are narrower in scope and may be operated by non-governmental organizations. They are often targeted at mothers who are in a vulnerable situation such as low-income mothers in India or refugee mothers in Jordania.

Adapted to local circumstances

Baby boxes are nearly always part of a broader programme aimed at enhancing wellbeing, promoting health and reducing inequality. Many programmes require mothers to  attend antenatal care during pregnancy or to give birth in a hospital or health clinic.

According to Jad Abuhamed, a doctoral student at Tampere University, many of those in charge of baby box programmes said that they had launched their programme after hearing of the Finnish baby box.

The items are often packaged in a box similar to that used in Finland. In some countries, they are delivered in a wooden box, a woven basket, a bag, or even a bucket. Local needs and circumstances are taken into account when planning the content of the baby box. For example, in many countries where malaria and other diseases are common, a mosquito net may be included.

According to Ella Näsi, a member of the research team, many baby box programmes include elements of health communication, for example in the form of online courses or information leaflets.

In many countries, baby boxes are handed out at events where parents get information and peer support around issues related to pregnancy, birth and child care.

Baby box programmes are developed further on the basis of research

The team at Tampere University, comprised of researchers focusing on global health issues, interviewed 29 persons in charge of various baby box programmes. Based on the interviews, the team has put together a publication exploring the contents of the baby boxes, the broader wellbeing goals built into the programmes, and how the procurement, distribution, funding and other practical issues around the baby boxes are dealt with.

Many of the programmes are of recent origin, so they may not yet be well established or have a secure funding basis.

Annariina Koivu says that the findings can be of use not only to other researchers but also to decision makers and implementors in health, social or non-governmental organizations who may be planning to set up a baby box programme or developing an existing one.

Publication details:

Koivu, Annariina; Phan, Yen T. H.; Näsi, Ella; Abuhamed, Jad; Perry, Brittany L.; Atkins, Salla; Perkiö, Mikko; Koivusalo, Meri. The baby box. Enhancing the wellbeing of babies and mothers around the world. Kela non-serial publication. 2020.

Printed research publication can be ordered (á 31 €)

  • via the online service (HELDA publication archive)
  • by sending the order by e-mail to: julkaisut@kela.fi
  • by phone on 020 634 1701.