Box Baby

A baby in a box?

That’s what some states in the U.S. are starting to encourage, following the success of a campaign in Finland that gives new moms a literal box for their newborns.

The primary goal of the baby box campaign both here and abroad is health-related. In Finland, the box program is designed to incentivize moms to come in for a prenatal check-up, at which point they are given a box filled with basic baby essentials. In the States, hospitals are trying to educate mothers about the dangers of co-sleeping in an effort to reduce incidents of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by sending new moms home from the hospital with what The New York Times termed a simple “cardboard crib.”

But the baby box campaign has the perhaps unintended effect of confirming something that the folks at places like BabiesRUs desperately don’t want today’s moms to figure out: You need virtually nothing for a new baby. What you do need, like the baby itself, you can fit in a box.

When I was expecting my first child, I was inundated with checklists from well-meaning moms listing all the essentials I would need for my impending bundle of joy. The lists were terrifying. As my mother-in-law can attest, I basically ran out of Buy Buy Baby (the name sums it up) in a panic when I could not tell the difference among the six different types of blankets one list told me I needed. “What the heck is a receiving blanket?!” I exclaimed in a moment of tearful desperation. Take a gander on over to The Bump, and you’ll see that their checklist of “Baby Essentials” is sixty-two items long.

I’m now expecting my third, and I chuckle to myself when people ask if I am “ready.” I need to pull the bassinet and infant car seat out of storage and then I am basically done. I have a stack of onesies, four swaddling blankets, and a hodgepodge of leftover bottles and pacifiers mixed up in a drawer with other miscellaneous toddler and kid items. I will probably order diapers and formula from Amazon while chilling in the hospital post-birth.

And guess what?

All of that, with the exception of the car seat that the law requires me to have in order to leave the hospital, can fit in a box, or in this case, my decades-old rickety bassinet, which was my husband’s when he was a baby.

My mom always one-ups me, when she reminds me that her mom slept in the top drawer of a dresser of the farmhouse bedroom her parents stayed in when they were new parents. Because really, who needs a crib?

As Americans got wealthier and accumulated more and more stuff in the process, expectant parents have been increasingly crushed by the stuff we’re told we need in order to care for a seven-pound human. Now we are coming almost full circle by showing parents that all they really need to care for a baby is a small cardboard box and the handful of items that fit inside.

A major risk factor for new babies, as any pediatrician will tell you, is that a newborn baby will suffocate from items placed inside his or her crib. Perhaps importing the baby box campaign will help in some small way to spare American parents the similar fate of suffocating under the weight of all the “baby gear” they are told by corporate America that they need to raise children.

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  • grey0135

    I think you’re missing the most expensive baby gear of all: the SUV, which is generally considered mandatory if you have more than one kid. Back when my parents were children, you could easily fit five kids in a normal car: for in the back and one in the front, between the parents (back then, most cars were wider and had. Each seats in the front).