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Opinion

Babies in a box?

Senior editor Ariel Brewster learns about a Finnish maternity tradition Canada should consider.

By Ariel Brewster
Babies in a box?

Without a doubt, the viral link of the week is the BBC story, "Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes."

Have you heard about this? My 30-something girlfriends and mom pals are loving it, as did Jezebel, Gawker Media's blog devoted to lady issues. The first thing I thought about was those "when I was your age" stories from my grandparents, who said that it used to be common for young babies to sleep in empty dresser drawers. The article pointed out that the cardboard box is actually pretty safe, and, when you think about it, not that different from an old-fashioned Moses basket.

The cardboard box, if you're wondering, is not just a bed for the baby. It's basically a maternity pack starter kit, full of stuff every new parent will need: diapers, a sleep sack, socks, booties and mittens, baby overalls, a mini-mattress, bath towels, teeny nail scissors, teething toys, a picture book, bra pads, and — awesomely — condoms, plus a baby snowsuit (it's Finland, remember). Some of the parents interviewed for the story said the box wasn't just about receiving the baby basics — it also sends a message of support and encouragement: "This felt to me like evidence that someone cared, someone wanted our baby to have a good start in life," said one dad. "And now when I visit friends with young children it's nice to see we share some common things. It strengthens that feeling that we are all in this together."

Today, the Globe and Mail's Andre Picard had a great response, wondering why Canada does not provide similar benefits and incentives as part of routine, government-provided prenatal and postnatal care.

If learning about maternity traditions in other countries is the kind of thing you're interested in, make sure you check out the 2010 documentary Babies. It's totally adorable, first of all, and a fascinating cross-cultural portrait of baby-rearing traditions around the globe as it follows four families in San Francisco, Tokyo, rural Mongolia, and a village in Namibia from birth through the baby's first year. The scene that stuck with me the most is when the Mongolian family checks out of the hospital and they all pile onto a motorcycle, along with their toddler and a cute bundled-up newborn, and drive across the countryside like it's no big deal. (Meanwhile, in North America, some parents get their car-seat installations inspected by law enforcement!?)

Watch the trailer below (I dare you not to smile). And, good news, it's streaming on Netflix.

This article was originally published on Jun 06, 2013

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