Cardboard boxes which double as beds for a newborn baby and are full of baby supplies are being distributed to Northland families in need.

BabyStart boxes are packed full of around 40 items of baby neccessities, from blankets, clothing and nappies to a book and toy. In addition, a fitted mattress and sheets mean it can be used as a bassinet.

Former Northland couple Phil and Clare Horrobin founded the BabyStart charity in 2015 along with police officer Bryan Ward.

Mr Horrobin said the inspiration came from the Finnish baby box which started in 1938. Originally it was just for disadvantaged families, but now the Finnish government provides 40,000 boxes a year.


He said in New Zealand they were working in Northland, Auckland and Porirua where boxes were sent to midwives and district health boards distributed them to families with newborns at risk of Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy (SUDI) or were struggling to get all the items they needed to care for their baby.

"The midwives and DHB's will actually assess each case based on need."

Mr Horrobin, who now lives in Auckland with his family, said Northland was part of the pilot programme after the Northland DHB contacted them.

"We had plans to work in Northland just maybe not as soon but because they were so enthusiastic, we did."

He said 26 BabyStart boxes have been donated to Northland families since June 2016.

"The demand is far higher than the supply."

Mr Horrobin said the goal for Northland is to reach about 200 families.

"Northland is a real priority for us. It's really exciting because it's home for us. The more people we can help the better really."

The box is 70cm long, 43cm wide and 27.5cm high. The cardboard has been tested to ensure it is safe.

"If a baby is liking or chewing or sucking on the cardboard it's not going to be toxic."

He said a pepi-pod or wahakura is designed for co-sleeping and designed to go in the bed, while the BabyStart box is not as suitable because the sides are higher.

Te Puawai Ora team leader Sam Harris said there is a limited supply of boxes to give to families with the greatest need.

"The baby box contains everything a newborn requires for the first 100 days of their lives. The parents just need to purchase extra nappies."

The Zonta Club of Whangarei held its second annual high tea on Saturday, which this year is raising funds for the BabyStart charity so it can provide more baby boxes.