Baby boxes are coming to the Saskatoon area thanks to the owners of a local store called Ready Set Baby Planners and Boutique. But for a price. The store announced their product just two weeks after the Alberta government revealed its plan to bring the 75-year Finnish tradition to Canada.
Maternity boxes are essentially a starter kit for new parents. They contain everything from diapers to toys and, traditionally, the box itself comes complete with a built-in mattress.
But the kit goes beyond material things, says Debbie Oesch, co-owner of the Martensville store. “They come with information — which is the biggest part for me — about breastfeeding, about pre-natal care, about finding a mentor to help you with getting along after the fact,” she explained to CBC.
Co-owner Jan Hiebert added that “the education is crucial,” especially for new moms and teen moms who “really need that extra assistance.”
For now, the store plans to sell the $140 kits themselves, however, they hope to partner with corporate sponsors in the future.
This month, the Alberta government began a new program called “Welcome to Parenthood” which has been distributing 1,500 baby boxes to new parents in the province.
According to Jennifer Weber, Government of Alberta’s senior manager of Early Childhood Development Services, the program is currently in the testing stage, which is why the boxes are not yet available across the country. However, they hope the program will eventually lead to changes in other provinces, including Saskatchewan.
“Our job ... with this research study is to create the best evidence around the effectiveness of this support, education, mentorship, and the tangible resource (or the box) with its context,” Karen Benzies, from Welcome to Parenthood, said. “Our job is to create the evidence to inform decisions by provincial governments.”
The baby box tradition was originally introduced as a way to lower infant mortality rates. According to Statistics Canada, the infant mortality rate in Saskatchewan has decreased since 2005.
Despite this, in 2012, the prairie province was tied with Newfoundland and Labrador for the third-highest infant mortality rate. At that time, Saskatchewan had 5.5 deaths per 1,000 kids less than one year old, compared to Canada’s average of 4.8 deaths.
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