From August 2017 every baby born in Scotland is offered a baby box, full of essential items for babies from birth to 6 months of age, the box itself also provides a suitable sleeping space for the baby. This initiative was introduced by the Scottish Government and aims to provide a fair and equal start for all children in Scotland.
As an expectant parent (due around Christmas day!), I’m lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to receive one of these baby boxes.
Where did the concept come from?
The baby box was first introduced in Finland in, can you believe it, 1937. This was a time when the country was poor and experiencing high infant mortality rates. The box was originally given to low-income families, however, from 1949, it was offered to every family, regardless of income or status. Today, Finnish parents have the option of choosing a 140 euro grant instead of the box, nearly all choose to take the box; currently, the uptake is 95%.
Infant mortality rates have reduced dramatically in Finland since the baby box was brought in. The reason for this is likely two-fold; the box itself is a safe space for a baby to sleep, but also the increase in parental attendance to sessions and health checks in order to qualify for receiving the box means that parents are better educated and prepared.
The box has changed and evolved over the years; in the 1930s and 40s, the boxes included fabric instead of pre-made baby clothes as it was traditionally for mothers to make their babies’ clothes. During World War II, cotton was prioritised for the Defence Ministry. So, boxes contained paper bed sheets and swaddling cloth so that, despite the circumstances, the boxes could still be provided to families at a time where they were probably needed the most. In the 1960s, baby sleeping bags and disposable nappies were introduced to the box. Now, cloth nappies are included as per the recent eco-friendly trends in Finland. In addition to this, at one stage, baby bottles and dummies were included in the box, but a decision was made to remove these in favour of promoting breastfeeding.
Given the length of time these boxes have been provided in Finland, it’s clear that they are received extremely well.
“Nobody ever questions the value of the box, it is so important to our culture. Very occasionally we hear conversations about whether the government should be spending the money giving it to every single family, but not to include families of higher wealth or to introduce a means test for the box would make the whole system redundant. The box is outside of class or wealth.” 
What is the Scottish baby box for?
So the Scottish baby box, is it the same? Well yes, the main principles are the same. As quoted by the Scottish Government in their Pilot Research document: “The Baby Box scheme aims to promote a fair and equal start for all children and to aid in achieving the best possible outcomes for all Scotland’s children. The Scottish Government’s brief for this research described intended benefits including:
- Reducing socio-economic inequalities by ensuring every family with a
newborn has access to essential items, and
- Informing parental behaviours that will positively impact on outcomes for the child, including safe sleeping practices, attachment and parent-child Interaction.” 
The box also helps soon-to-be parents to mentally prepare for becoming a parent, the box and its contents helps parents to visualise their new life with a baby.
How and when is the baby box provided?
A form signed by your midwife is presented to all mothers-to-be at their 20 to 24-week antenatal check-up appointment. All you need to do then is fill out the form and send it off in the post (free of charge). Your request for a baby box is verified by text as and when they have processed your application.
The box gets sent out when you’re between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant, you get a wee text from the government to say that your box will be sent out within the next few weeks and a text to notify you of its impending delivery.
What’s included in the baby box?
The real question is, what’s not in the box! It’s packed with a huge amount of useful goodies for babies up to 6 months old. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included in the baby box:
- Changing mat
- Baby gym
- Baby wrap
- Maternity pads
- Black and white book
- Toy rattle/box
- Disposable breast pads
- Ear thermometer
- Bath/room temperature gauge
- Nail files
- Teething toy
- 2 x mattress sheets
- 2 x long sleeve vests
- 1 x short sleeve vest
0 – 3 months
- 2 x long sleeve vests
- Long sleeve babygrow
- Summer babygrow
3 – 6 months
- Fleece hoodie
- Summer babygrow
- Long sleeve babygrow
Thoughts on the baby box contents
It’s really quite impressive, and feels very generous! Everything included looks to be of good quality and everything has a purpose. Being quite an organised person there is a lot of I’ve organised already at this stage of pregnancy. So, one thought is that perhaps the box should be sent out slightly earlier so items aren’t bought already.
There were a couple of things included that I genuinely hadn’t thought of, like baby nail files. It hadn’t crossed my mind that babies can’t cut their own fingernails and how this might be an issue!
I had a few thoughts on the eco-friendliness of the box content, with lots of items being wrapped in plastic wrappers or boxed, this could probably be improved. I would also say that a few items of the clothing leaned more towards the feminine-side, but this is really looking for things to comment on.
There were a couple of leaflets included in the box as well, one highlighting a free music app for new parents which I thought was a lovely idea. I also liked that the box wasn’t filled with advertising material and that for the most part, the contents were unbranded where possible.
Thoughts on the box itself
Really, what’s not to love? The Scotland-inspired illustrations on the box are adorable, and fantastic that they’re ready to be coloured in by the child once they have grown, or by older siblings. I had originally thought that I wouldn’t bother using the box as a crib as I already have a portal one, however, I can see the benefit and ease of it, especially if the crib is upstairs and I’m downstairs with the baby – basically, I think it’ll get used!
What’s not included, that should be
I was surprised to see no nappies in the box, as I’d define this as a pretty essential item for newborns!
The Finnish baby box includes reusable nappies so it would make sense for the Scottish baby box to follow suit. Something like the Bambino Mio Miosoft Two-Piece Nappy Set would be an ideal addition to the box, as well as the addition of reusable baby wipes. It would be incredibly useful to include a low-cost breast pump in the box, the AVENT Manual Breast Pump is a fantastic option, or something like the Haakaa Breast Pump is small, portable and eco-friendly.
Personally, it would be nice to see the box be as eco-friendly as possible. So, as mentioned already above, less plastic or cardboard packaging. But, also the use of more eco-friendly items, such as silicone teethers and reusable breast pads. Although, I’d imagine this hasn’t been done because of the potential cost. Lastly, and where possible, it would be delightful to see Scottish produce used over mass-produced brands. Again, cost dependent, perhaps this will come in time as this is still a fairly new initiative.
Much like the Finnish baby box, I’m excited to see how this box, and its contents, evolve. I’m truly grateful to have been offered the opportunity to receive it!