The baby box tradition actually goes way back—to 1930s Finland, and their government program to provide a basic bassinet and newborn starter kit for every expectant mom—but it’s been trending again this summer, especially in Ontario. On Monday, The Baby Box Co., an international company that already provides sleep-safe bassinet-style boxes and free products to new parents in 52 countries, celebrated their Canadian launch at The Four Villages Community Health Centre in Toronto. The company is distributing 145,000 free boxes through hospitals, health centres, and participating agencies in Ontario this year, and plans to expand to both Alberta and Manitoba by the end of 2016. The rest of the country will follow in 2017, says CEO Jennifer Clary. The model is purposefully community-based: after registering online, moms and dads must come to the health centre or local agency in person to pick up the free box, building face-to-face relationships and introducing families to all the other community resources available to them.
Meanwhile, a new, Ontario-based company called Baby Box Canada, run by two Toronto parents, has begun mailing out boxes of free baby products to expectant parents who sign up at babyboxcanada.org. (Full disclosure: copies of Today’s Parent are included in the bundle of goodies.) Over 80,000 expectant Ontario families have registered so far and the company hopes to expand nation-wide in 2017, with follow-up “milestone boxes” as your baby becomes a toddler and your family needs change with each new phase and stage. (Both companies promise that protecting your private, personal data is paramount.)
So, what’s in a box? Both include a mix of diapers, onesies, baby lotions and shampoo, absorbent breast pads, and other infant essentials. But there’s a major difference: the Baby Box Canada boxes are not designed for sleeping (they’re not big enough, anyhow). Boxes from The Baby Box Co. are truer to the Finnish tradition of providing products to pregnant women, plus a cozy and safe place to put your baby down: they’ve been tested by Health Canada as an approved sleep environment for a newborn, and come with a mattress, fitted sheet, and waterproof cover. Your baby can sleep in the box (with the lid off, of course) for the first six months, or until he can roll over, pull up on the sides, or exceeds the weight maximum of 52 pounds. The Baby Box Co. also includes sleep tips and resources for new parents, and memberships to their online educational portal, The Baby Box University.
While we can’t predict whether your newborn will actually love snoozing in a cardboard box (as experienced parents know all too well, some babies prefer to snuggle on Mom’s chest or snooze in a swing), one thing’s for sure: everybody loves free stuff.