Gettin’ ‘Em Young…

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 contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed.

Sound great? Sound like just the thing you should expect from your government, a ‘gift’ (bought with your taxes)?

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 in order 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.

Hmmm. Now why would they ipose that condi…

Ah. Of course.

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.

It was really a gateway drug for state dependency!

For some families, the contents of the box would be unaffordable if they were not free of charge, though for Vayrynen, it was more a question of saving time than money.

She was working long hours when pregnant with her first child, and was glad to be spared the effort of comparing prices and going out shopping.

Oh, benevolent government, to remove the need to think!

When she had her second boy, Ilmari, Vayrynen opted for the cash grant instead of the box and just re-used the clothes worn by her first, Aarni.

A boy can pass on clothes to a girl too, and vice versa, because the colours are deliberately gender-neutral.

We would expect nothing less…

In 1968 a sleeping bag appeared, and the following year disposable nappies featured for the first time.

Not for long. At the turn of the century, the cloth nappies were back in and the disposable variety were out, having fallen out of favour on environmental grounds.

Don’t complain, sheeple! Your government has your best interests at heart!

Encouraging good parenting has been part of the maternity box policy all along.

“Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop,” says Panu Pulma, professor in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki. “Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them.”

At a certain point, baby bottles and dummies were removed to promote breastfeeding.

This is what you get when you don’t make your own choices. Now, do you see how important that is?

3 comments for “Gettin’ ‘Em Young…

  1. July 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Bloody hell! I’m going to have to try that kind of gift next Christmas. I’ll get my entire family to pay into a Christmas fund and then use the money to buy them gifts.

    The box should only be available to low income families who have made the wise choice not to procreate yet. Then it wouldn’t be needed at all.

  2. July 2, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    That’s really interesting, Julia. Never knew that.

  3. Matt
    July 3, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Totally agreed generally, but don’t take the mickey out of the stuff being “gender neutral”. It’s an expensive, wasteful, interfering and controlling process already, but having different “kits” for each sex would cost even more and require further intrusive examinations upon birth followed by a delay of, say, 2 months before the new-born receives its cot whilst the forms (and “proof” in the form of photographs, as per most other government schemes???) find their way through the self-faxing bureaucracy. Yuck.


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