Monday, 12 December 2011

Sleeping in a box, sleeping outside and other strange Finnish child rearing habits.

  While the little one sleeps - outside of course - I will take the time to write about the topic that prompted my Facebook friends to suggest I write a blog. I had posted a few pictures of my baby girl on Facebook. In one of them she was lying in a cardboard box.

I knew this might seem strange to my non Finnish friends so I wrote a caption below the picture explaining that everyone gets a box filled with things for a new baby. This includes a cardboard box with a mattress for the baby to sleep in courtesy of the state. Everyone regardless of their economic status is entitled to a box or approximately 150 euros. The worth of the box is actually more than 150 euros so it is better to take the box. You fill out the form at least two months before giving birth and the package comes in the mail before you give birth. You can have a look at the contents of the Finnish Maternity Package at this link.

 Everyone I know has taken a maternity package and the box and mattress is very handy. Even though everyone buys a crib the box is nice in the first few days after the hospital because the baby is so small it feels more cozy in the small box rather than a big crib. Also, the box is portable and can be moved from place to place around the house. As someone remarked on my Facebook page a lot of thought has been put into the maternity package to ensure you have all the basic clothes and care materials for your new baby. Which is especially helpful for poor families as anything baby usually commands a high price. And yes those are condoms you see in the picture. They are provided in order to make sure you don't cost the state any more money making babies! No just kidding. It is to make sure that people don't have an "accident" soon after the birth of their baby. Most people don't realize you can be fertile again, as soon as three months after giving birth, even if breastfeeding. I will blog about living in this social welfare state another time.

 Now for the second "crazy" parenting habit of us Finns - babies left to sleep outside even in the winter. We don't leave the baby outside in weather colder than -10 degrees Celcius (well some hard core Finns do). And we do bundle them up warmly in their winter suits and several other layers of clothes and hats inside their baby carriage. At first I myself thought "These Finnish people mad yes!". But after having a baby and seeing how well she slept when we went for walks I was converted. Now when it is nap time I bundle her up and put her outside in the baby carriage. She sleeps for 3 - 5 hours outside unlike inside where she never sleeps more than 15 - 45 minutes during the day. Many people live in apartment buildings so putting the child outside means putting them on the balcony so they are not in the street. If you live in a house, the child is in your yard, hardly a dangerous place.

 This practice seems to be a Scandinavian habit because I have heard of two women being arrested in the U.S. for leaving their babies outside. A Swedish woman left her baby outside a restaurant in Amherst, Massachusetts and a Danish woman left hers outside a cafe in New York city. Due to cultural differences someone called the police and they were arrested. The crime rate in Scandinavian countries is quite low so people don't worry about child abductions. Being from Trinidad I have a hard time talking myself into leaving my baby outside the store or restaurant in the centre of the city while I nip in for a bite. But leaving her in the yard or just outside the daycare centre is definitely safe and will help her improve her cold tolerance.

 Finns definitely seem to be more liberal and give their children a lot more freedom than we would in Trinidad or the U.S. American parents tend to hover, Trini parents tend to be strict and restrictive. Finnish children walk to school or take the bus to school by themselves from a very early age and are climbing trees and playing in the forest unsupervised. I've told my husband that I don't think I could allow my children to be playing in the forest unattended in case they should be injured. But he thinks that's the only way they will learn how to take care of themselves and is worried I will be an overprotective and stifling mother. Most of my Finnish friends' parents seem to be very hands off, allowing them to live on their own terms and hardly interfering. Not so in Trinidad. In Trinidad parents, grandparents, and relatives always have two cents to add about how you should be living your life and always want to know your business. I think it would be good to adopt some of the Finnish parenting styles. I hope to become more relaxed and not be an overprotective, overbearing and interfering mother.


  1. What a beautiful, beautiful child!

  2. live in the UK and will become a grandmother in a few months.
    i would love to know if it's possible to but these boxes...

  3. Sorry I don't think it is possible since it is a welfare benefit.