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‘Baby boxes’ popular in Finland are coming to the US

“I need more!” says one of the doulas who distributed the kits.
Ciara, Kelly Rowland And Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde, Ciara and Kelly Rowland help pack up Maternal Health & Newborn Supply Kits. Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Baby2Baby

When Americans began spotting videos of free European "baby boxes" filled with all sorts of products infants need for the first year of life, they were absolutely amazed. There was just one problem: these boxes weren't available in America ... until now.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a pilot program with Baby2Baby to distribute 3,000 Maternal Health & Newborn Supply Kits in Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. The pilot went so well that Huggies hopped on board to triple the impact, distributing 10,000 kits to mothers who live in seven additional states: California, New York, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

In many countries, most famously Finland, the government gives every new parent a "baby box" full of supplies; the box itself is a sturdy cardboard frame with a thin mattress where the baby can sleep safely. The U.S. kits come in a bag rather than a box because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed "baby boxes" unsafe for sleep.

These kits are desperately needed by families across the country. Baby2Baby has received requests for 1.3 billion diapers this year alone. HHS selected states for distribution based on high rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality and postpartum depression.

Each kit is filled with supplies for the baby (like a month’s supply of diapers) as well as the birth parent (like witch hazel pads). It also includes educational information on topics like breastfeeding and safe sleep, and the details on HHS’s maternal health hotline and website with more parental tips.

Celebrity Baby2Baby ambassadors Ciara, Olivia Wilde, and Kelly Rowland helped pack kits at the organization’s warehouse in Los Angeles on May 8.

"When we were packing kits earlier today, I was imagining what it would be like for moms to receive such important supplies during such a vulnerable, and often scary, time," said Rowland.

Highlighting the maternal mortality crisis, Ciara acknowledged that "a lot of women aren't getting the same kind of care I was able to have."

Wilde said that even though she "had all the support in the world," she still felt stressed when her babies were born. Having supplies is essential, but these kits also tell women, "'You're not alone. Someone's thinking about you,'" Wilde said. "The fact that this program is expanding gives me hope that it will continue to expand."

"A crazy good thing"

Daijah Smith is a New Mexico-based doula who helps families manage all aspects of birth, from contraception through postpartum. When spoke with Smith, she had delivered five of the six newborn kits she had been allotted for the pilot program.

"It's been a crazy good thing," Smith says of the kits. "I need more!"

Prior to receiving these kits, Smith had been raising money through donations to create newborn kits of her own. She hosts community baby showers, filled with donated goods that are first-come, first-serve for guests to take. She was thrilled to receive the kits from HHS because they allowed her to help families more easily.

Some families may be hesitant to take help from a government agency, which is why enlisting help from community workers like Smith is essential.

In addition to being a doula, Smith is a community health worker, a certified peer supporter and an activist for equitable care for all birthing parents.

"We're starting to bridge the gap," Smith says. "People are starting to trust these systems. We need to find people who are as passionate about the work as we are to help."

One of the things that made the kits useful to families is the fact that they cater to the mom and the baby, Smith said. "That is a unique selling point, especially for those who didn't have a baby shower or support. We sometimes forget about mom’s postpartum healing," says Smith.

"My colleagues want in," she laughs. "They keep asking how to get boxes and I say, 'I don't know!' It's crazy how simple a slight gesture is. Whatever it takes to get these kits to families, I'm 100% for it."