Kate Barr is one of three co-owners of the revolutionary baby brand, Pip & Grow. Born out of a passion for infant sleep safety, Pip & Grow offers “Smitten”: an infant sleep solution at the forefront of innovation. It’s a box. A box for babies to sleep in.
Placing your infant in a box to sleep is not as weird as you might think, nor is it a new idea. Europeans have been doing it for decades, to the tune of drastically reduced infant sleep injuries and deaths. Pip & Grow wanted to offer Smitten as an American-made product, to bring those results home and keep babies safer.
The Europeans are on to something when it comes to babies and family-life. Today, Kate shares five ways Europeans got raising babies right.
Making babies is considered patriotic.
Europe is aging rapidly, causing countries to go to great lengths to encourage their citizens to procreate. One such example? The “Do it for Denmark” ad campaign from Danish company Spies. This company offered “ovulation discounts” for couples hoping to conceive while on holiday. How considerate!
Babies sleep in boxes.
And no one thinks it’s weird. Since 1938, the Finnish government has gifted moms-to-be a baby box with a thin mattress in the bottom. This box is baby’s first bed. In that time, Finland has seen their infant mortality rate drop from a (very) high 65 infant deaths per 1000 births, to a (very) low 3 infant deaths per 1000 births. Other countries are starting to get in on the action as well. Scotland and Canada have both embarked on baby box pilot programs of their own. The public health benefits are outstanding.
Thankfully, this is one European tradition that is now making it’s way to the US. As a public health professional and as a mom who was lucky enough to use one, I love baby boxes on a personal level. For me, they’re an elegant solution that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Family-centered home visits.
Those first days after baby is born are a blur of diapers, feeding and precious few moments of shut-eye. It takes a Herculean effort to organize the family to get to baby’s first few pediatrician appointments.
Feeling mom’s pain, the French health system has stepped in to help. Instead of making families schlep to the doctor’s office, a doctor or nurse comes to the family. Nurses check in on both mom and baby during their visits, helping keep watch for often overlooked issues like postpartum depression or challenging living situations.
A boat load of paid family leave.
In Sweden each family can take up to 480 days of paid family leave. And you get to decide how to divide it up—the only restriction is that dad is required to take at least 90 days. That’s right: Dads must take at least three months to bond with their babies.
While parents are at home with baby, their jobs are secure and they receive 80 percent of their salaries. Their benefits, including health care, are unchanged. Pardon me while I pack my suitcase...
Yes. Free. As a new parent, I spend a shocking amount of time worrying about how we’ll afford to send our little one to college. Not so for parents in countries like Germany, Sweden and Norway. Thanks to debt-free college programs, students are able to get their degrees for next-to-nothing.
The best news? Germany extends these benefits to international students as well. Perhaps I should consider Munich for my kid’s teenage years.
More Motherly insights from the founder of Pip & Grow
How do you make your mornings run smoothly?
Kate Barr: Ha! “Smoothly” isn’t really a part of my vocabulary these days. But, we have found our stride a bit. First, I try to give myself some grace. The lower my stress level, the more easily things seem to go. Second, I love a routine. We do the same thing every morning (just like having a bedtime routine, but for wake-up). Winnie, my 10-month-old, wakes up at 6ish, has a bottle and we read a book. That little connection time seems to help get her started on the right foot.
I also had to switch to showering at night. Winnie used to struggle to entertain herself during my morning shower, so rather than fight with a baby, I abandoned the shower. Having messy morning hair is just a part of my look these days.
The life hack or tip that changed my life…
Kate Barr: Oh man. There are so many. This parenting thing has a steep learning curve, so I’m going to give you two.
First: the waterproof speaker. I love listening to podcasts, but, I was struggling to find time for them. So, my husband gave me a waterproof speaker that I take in the shower with me. Each night before bed, I take a long shower and listen to a podcast. It’s my “me” time for the day and I cherish it.
Second: Smitten. This probably seems like a shameless product plug, but I promise that Smitten really changed my life. We used that thing non-stop. We used it on vacations instead of the grubby hotel cribs and we took it to concerts in the park. Particularly of note, it became a crucial part of our nighttime routine. We would put Winnie to sleep in it around 6ish each night. Because Smitten is so light, we would carry sleeping Winnie to wherever we were hanging out (in the living room watching West Wing, having a grown up dinner on the patio, wherever). If Winnie woke up, it was easy to replace her pacifier or bounce her back to sleep without running up and down stairs to a faraway crib. And when we were ready for bed, we’d carry Winnie, still asleep in her Smitten, upstairs to our room. It worked like a charm and I had an easier time relaxing because I knew she was safe.
What superpower have you discovered as a mom?
Kate Barr: Bravery. Once I pushed a human out of my vagina in a room full of strangers, I knew I could do anything. When I looked in Winnie’s eyes for the first time, I knew I would do anything to be a good mama for her, no matter how much it scared me.
Never in my life did I think I’d start a company. But, I took the leap because I want my little girl to see her mama following her dreams. There’s no road map and no promise of success. I just get up every morning, do the best I can, and remember that I’m doing something I really believe in—working to ensure a safe sleep space for every baby.
I’m so proud that Winnie will grow up watching me be a lady boss doing work I’m passionate about. For me, the outcome isn’t what matters, it’s the commitment to follow my heart and to be a force for good in the world, even when it’s difficult.
This quote inspires me…
“We’re all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.” - Wavy Gravy
Kate Barr: Truer words have never been spoken, in my opinion. Wavy Gravy, ‘70s clown, reminds me that none of us have it figured out. There are a great many people who seem to have it all together. Whether it’s the mom at school drop-off who’s actually showered and dressed or a celebrity with a carefully-curated, instagram-perfect social media presence—I assume they must know more or do better than me. Turns out, we’re all struggling to figure it out. The pulled-together mom may be facing a tough time at work. The picture-perfect celebrity may be crushed by cruel comments from internet trolls. Who knows? All I know for sure is that none of us have all the answers. It’s not easy for me to ask for help or to say “I don’t know,” but this quote reminds me that we’re all in it together and it’s ok to let others see my struggle.
To me, Motherly means...
Kate Barr: Taking care. Being motherly means taking care of our littles, our families, our friends, our neighbors and, most difficult of all... ourselves.
Haley Campbell is the founder of Beluga Baby and creator of the ultimate bamboo baby carrier. She is a regular contributor to Motherly and is an avid advocate for entrepreneurs, and for the new generation of mothers making the world their own.