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Would You Pay $450 to Put Your Baby in a Box?

by Marsha Takeda-Morrison

Photograph by Twenty20

We know that no one puts baby in the corner, but how about putting baby in a box? The practice of sending new parents home with a cardboard box to nestle their newborn in—started in Finland in the 1930s—is gaining popularity here in the US.

The Finnish program was initiated 75 years ago to give all children an equal start in life, no matter their background, and is credited with helping Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates. The boxes, which have a mattress in the bottom and can serve as baby’s first bed, also come stocked with clothes, sheets, toys, bathing supplies, outdoor gear and even a sleeping bag.

While parents in Finland are presented with the boxes at no charge by the government, U.S. parents will have to fork over some of baby’s college fund—anywhere from $65 to $450—in order to purchase a baby starter kit from a company called Finnbin. (Cue the stampede of expectant parents trying to move to Helsinki.)

The American version of the baby box is a partnership between Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies and Finnbin, a startup founded by a former senior VP at PR giant MSLGroup and a former executive of Groupon. The alliance is an ideal one for Huggies, which already distributes diaper samples through maternity wards and could use the placement to gain more prominence in baby registries and gifting.

So, what can parents here expect in their baby box? The lowest-priced ($65; pictured above) box is stocked with a mattress, pad, sheet and other Kimberly-Clark items like Huggies diapers, wipes and even Poise pads for mom. From there, prices go up as you add in items such as clothes, towels, bibs and bathing supplies. The priciest box will set you back $450 (pictured below) and is advertised as containing $800 worth of items. Additional necessities include a block set, baby-safe dish liquid—and a 6-pack of condoms.

But before you rush out and get that baby box as a shower gift, you should note that not all experts are ready to endorse them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says: “The Finnish baby box has captured attention in the past couple of years. Currently, there is insufficient data on the role cardboard boxes play in reducing infant mortality.” The organization also adds that the country’s low infant mortality rate may also be attributed to exceptional prenatal care, fewer people who smoke and the fact that almost all babies sleep on their backs.

Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says that baby boxes “are currently not subject to any mandatory safety standards” and urge caution and diligence on the part of parents and caregivers when putting babies to sleep. To further educate new moms and dads, some states that are participating in a program to distribute baby boxes for free require parents to first complete an online education course on safe sleep practices, baby care, nutrition and other topics.

Some experts feel that’s not enough, and are worried about parents adopting baby boxes without researching them first. “I’ve been very surprised at how much enthusiasm there’s been for this and how people are just jumping on this bandwagon,” says Dr. Rachel Moon, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ task force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She stresses that more research is needed before parents can be assured of the safety of baby boxes. “If it were my child, I would get something that meets C.P.S.C. standards,” she says.

Parents take heed: As with any product, do your research and make an informed choice. In other words, before you put your baby in a box, make sure you have all your ducks in a row.

Product images via Finnbin

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