Opinion Column

Bring the baby box to B.C.

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

(Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images)

(Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images)

When you’re expecting a baby in Finland, the Finnish government sends you a box filled with baby clothes, toys and blankets.

Started in the 1930s, the baby box was meant to give all children, regardless of their family’s wealth or background, an equal start in life. The box has a mattress in the bottom so it can be used as a baby bed or a safe spot for naps. It’s a practice we should start implementing here in B.C.

According to B.C. government statistics, approximately 190,000 (or one in 25 people) in the province, receive income assistance and we have one of the highest rates of child poverty in Canada with one in five children living under the poverty line.

When women living in extreme poverty get pregnant, they often have to choose between basic necessities for themselves and for their children. They can’t afford the healthy food they should be eating during pregnancy and the early months of caring for a newborn. The baby box ensures that at least the basic necessities are provided so all children have the chance to start life on an equal footing. (Of course, parents who want to upgrade to designer onesies and fancy bassinets still can do so, but the baseline is raised.)

Baby boxes send a message to parents that our society values and welcomes children and though, in large part, raising those children is the parents’ responsibility, it sends a message that there are other people out there who care for the child and will step up when you need support.

Sure, there are charities that provide baby supplies to mothers in need. They do great work but they can be confusing and embarrassing to navigate and, sometimes, mothers may not even know where to start. The government-provided baby box is meant to be a symbol that, no matter their parents’ income or ability to provide, every child is equal.

When Finland first introduced the boxes, they saw a decline in infant mortality and an increase in mothers seeking medical care during pregnancy. Finnish-inspired boxes are available for sale for 399 euros or just over $600, a cost that could quickly be recouped if it resulted in health-care savings.

The baby box immediately improves the early months for children in poverty.  It puts parents in better touch with health services and tangibly shows them the support of their community and it can result in better outcomes and health-care savings for us all.