The province hopes to reinforce child and family wellbeing by providing basic supplies up front, as well as long term mentoring.
Since 1938, new mothers in Finland have received a ‘baby box’ that includes diapers, clothes, books, blankets, and a tiny mattress that transforms the cardboard box into a bassinet where the baby can sleep. This ‘starter kit’ for parents is well known and admired throughout the world, but has not caught on in other countries – until now.
Canada has decided to start offering baby boxes in Alberta, as part of a $500-million grant from the provincial government. In a province where approximately 55,000 babies are born each year, more than a quarter of those children are not reaching important developmental milestones by the time they start school, which has led researchers at the University of Calgary to wonder if the parental support network isn’t strong enough.
Parents who want a baby box will fill out questionnaires and be paired with a mentor that will help them through the transition from pregnancy to parenthood. At a time that can be very daunting and overwhelming to many new and exhausted parents, having someone to talk to can make a big difference.
The Calgary Herald quotes Karen Benzies, a professor at U of C and lead researcher for the study:
“What we’re hoping to do by providing this tangible resource and this mentorship during this transition time is to really say to new parents in Alberta: ‘You’re important, we value you and your role. We want to provide you with the supports that you’re going to need to help you through this transition because you’re going to be successful but every parent needs a little help’.”
The Alberta boxes contain a sleeper, onesie, diapers, nursing pad, blanket, sleep sack, environmentally-friendly baby shampoo, a book, a thermometer and Alberta Health Services resources, as well as a mattress that converts into a bassinet.
Being given a baby box will also help new parents to narrow down what’s actually necessary for raising a newborn, rather than being bombarded with confusing and lengthy lists of gizmos and gadgets that manufacturers claim are important. You really only need a few basic items, and the box pretty much has that covered.
Benzie says: “We hope by engaging new families early, we’re going to help bring them into an integrated, linked system of programming that will provide consistent evidence-based information. We’ll walk with them as that child grows up to school age.”