For parents-to-be, planning and designing a nursery can be a lot of fun. But it's also a luxury not every parent can afford.
That top-of-the-line crib from Pottery Barn sure is gorgeous, but it's out of reach for many people. Even a new crib from a big-box store might not be in the budget. Many new parents don't even have the space for a dedicated nursery.
But the baby's coming regardless, and it needs a safe place to sleep. So what's a parent to do?
Countries around the world, and the United States, more recently, are giving out baby boxes — simple cardboard boxes with a small cushion that can serve as a perfectly suitable bed for newborn babies.
The boxes also come with some basic supplies to get new parents through those first handful of rough nights at home. Though simple in concept, these boxes have been shown to drastically decrease infant mortality rates in areas where they're available.
But what exactly does a baby box look like? And what's inside? I got one from The Baby Box Company so we could find out.
The folks at The Baby Box Company sent me one of the free boxes used during the program launch in Virginia; this is what new parents there get in exchange for completing an online parenting class.
The first thing you'll notice is that the baby box comes inside another box. You won't want your baby to sleep in that outer one, but it's big enough that it might come in handy if you ever move — or if you need a makeshift sled next time it snows.
All photos by Evan Porter/Welcometoterranova.
Inside, you'll find the goodies. The actual baby box itself comes packed flat and assembles with just a few folds and a tucked tab or two.
There are pretty detailed visual instructions in case you take a wrong turn somewhere. IKEA would be proud.
(Attention experienced DIYers: Read the instructions. Your infant will be sleeping here; better to do it right.)
Voila! It only takes a minute or two to fully assemble the box. (Take that, fancy cribs.)
When it comes to baby boxes, the name of the game is safety. So there's also a helpful reminder to not put anything besides your baby in the box.
For the uninitiated, it might seem counter-intuitive to not put any blankets or pillows in with your baby, but it's a critical thing to remember.
And then there's the mattress, of course.
It fits perfectly inside the box.
There. Doesn't that look cozy?
The baby box is more than just a temporary crib. It also comes with some super clutch supplies inside to help parents through those first few days.
First of all, I super appreciate that shampoo, body wash, and deodorant are included. New parents, don't forget to take care of yourselves too.
When you first bring your baby home, you will definitely forget about things like eating and personal hygiene. Something as simple as a hot shower can definitely help keep you sane and prepared to care for your infant.
There's also a starter pack of Pampers newborn diapers, complete with an adorable tip on how to create your own "diaper song."
The company says this is a proven, if silly, way to help new parents bond with their babies.
Then there's a sampler of Diaper Doo — lotion used to treat bad diaper rashes.
It's a lifesaver for any parent.
Next up is a pack of wet wipes, of which you can never have too many.
There's also a nice reminder to talk to your baby about textures to help them learn.
The box even comes with laundry detergent tabs because they know running the washing machine multiple times per day is your life now.
What the baby box provides barely scratches the surface of what the baby will need, so it also comes with some really handy coupons to help restock on diapers, wipes, and more.
It's certainly not everything you need, but the baby box is a pretty good start.
For anyone on a tight budget, or even someone caught unprepared for the baby's arrival, a box like this could be an actual lifesaver.
OK, so how do you get a baby box? It's pretty easy in most places.
A few states (New Jersey, Ohio, and Alabama — with more on the way) offer a free box program, where expecting parents can go online, take a quick child education course, and get a no-cost baby box in return.
Even if you can't get one for free, you can order a box straight from The Baby Box Company starting at around $70, which sure beats a $500 designer crib.
Bringing a new baby into your world is chaotic, stressful, and challenging at best. It's cool to see a push toward simplicity really catching on and making a difference.
Update 10/10/2017: Oops! The baby boxes come with laundry detergent as pictured, not dishwasher detergent. Sleep-deprived parents will understand how easy it is to make this mistake.