Why Finnish Babies Sleep in a Cardboard box?


Link to original article from B.B.C. on Why Finnish babies sleep in a cardboard box?

For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland make one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.


The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers 

It has bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as diapers bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety

of the box’s  cardboard walls.

A 1947 maternity pack

Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, now set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.

The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.

“Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy,” says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela – the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland’s nascent welfare state.

In the 1930s Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high – 65 out of 1,000 babies died. But the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed.

Mika Gissler, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, gives several reasons for this – the maternity box and pre-natal care for all women in the 1940s, followed in the 60s by a national health insurance system and the central hospital network.



In Denmark, we did something similar from the thirties and onwards just without giving out a box like the Finnish. Nurses, specialised on children were educated to visit all homes just after the baby was born to support breastfeeding and healthy living and in safe surroundings. A kind of schooling for parents in their own homes. None of the visits was compulsory, but as it became so accepted very few ever declined the offer. Included was some prenatal check-ups at the family doctor and the midwife preparing for the birth.

It is all free for everybody. I was employed doing this job for more than thirty years.

A photo copy of a painting by Carl Larsson

A photocopy of a painting by Carl Larsson

In an exhibition on circulation here in Scandinavia called “The century of the child” these pictures can be seen. It describes how things began to be created for children in a new scale as the death rate went down and families could start to expect their children to LIVE!





Children´s books, play parks, furniture and functional clothes were made. The idea that families took the responsibility to make the children a priority is clearly seen in  Carl Larsson’s beautiful scenes from his home in Sweden.




The original Carl Larsson’s Sleigh at the exhibition in Sweden


    • Thank you for reading and following too. In Finland they were very poor before, during and after the WWII. Most of their children had been evacuated to Sweden and Denmark during the war. I am sure it boosted the wish to get babies to get these nice things. Nowadays I think they should give the package to those who need it. Or that you could order what you need.
      I know that your people in the Ukraine have been through tough times then and now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They have and still are. I left Ukraine, when I was 17, so I never dealt with child support there, but I know that monthly payments are ridiculously low. Oh well, at the moment it’s not even the biggest issue, unfortunately…


  1. You asked about the baby boxes! We Finns still love them so much. My friend who lived in the States actually bought her friend’s baby box because she wasn’t entitled to one as she’s not living in Finland. The other lady was ready to part with hers because it was her second child and she had saved most of the stuff she had in the first box. If for some reason (for example if you are adopting an older child) you do not need the baby stuff, then you can opt to get it in cash instead. Of course the sum is quite small if you compare to what the box contains 🙂

    It’s a very special feeling to be able to get your own box from the post office when you are pregnant. And even better when you go home to look at all the goodies it contains – and to imagine your baby soon needing them!

    Feel free to ask anything else if you are wondering 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Suvi! Your answer brought tears in my eyes. It’s really lovely to hear that people appreciate it. I had a feeling like if you get a lot for free then you don’t value it so high. I saw the exhibition on “The Century of Childhood” twice. First in Värnamo and then in Copenhagen. I saw the boxes there and the pictures which I put in my blogpost on the same name as the exhibition. I have a friend as I said before from Finland, but she never told me so much about it. Do you think that some people even today have the box as a cot or crib?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes many people still use it as a cot for the baby, for example it’s often lifted inside the baby’s crib till the baby gets too big for it. All mommies will agree that the sleeping bag provided is the most important item. As you probably know, we like our babies to sleep in the pram outside during the day, so it’s very much needed especially in winter of course 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t seem to send you a link, so if you want to read a new mom’s post on the matter, Google “Helsinki Dragonfly Finnish maternity package”! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s