The global spread of the Finnish baby box without empirical evidence to support initiatives raises concern that the concepts of the box are being introduced uncritically in a diverse number of countries, spaces and places without concern for local historical, social, cultural and material understanding. Such appropriation of a significant cultural and social tool for infant health and well-being risks the material object – the box and its contents - being used to develop western, normative parenting practices whilst maintaining power relations between children, parents, expert others and between the Global North and South.
To explicate these concerns this article explores potential problems of the box that empirical research is yet to explore including the promotion of westernised parenting practices and child development theory. This gives rise to concerns about colonisation and the need for ethical research practices in a project in Zambia seeking to meet the aims of the UN sustainable development goal 3 – for good health and well-being for all. We draw on sociomaterial understanding in a design project to develop a culturally sensitive and particular concept of the baby box for use in Zambia. One possible local solution is a ‘chitenge’, a multi-purpose garment, rather than a box.