Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to our podcast:  iTunes  |  Stitcher  Spotify

I am so excited to share today’s episode of Evidence Based Birth® podcast with you! Today, I am bringing you an interview with Maria Berglund, the founder of In Kind Boxes, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help families thrive after birth with a baby shower gift that gives back.
 
This episode is coming out just in time for our listeners who are doulas and midwives to apply for In Kind’s partnership program! Tune in to get all the details!
 
Maria Berglund, is a Canadian mom living in the United States. Maria has three wonderful boys and her work as the founder of In Kind Boxes has been featured both on Good Morning America and in Entrepreneur Magazine.
 
Maria and I talk about why she started a nonprofit with a mission to help new parents thrive after birth and how that vision grew into a model to support and give back to families in vulnerable positions, like NICU families or refugee families. Maria speaks to her different experiences in the postpartum period between Canada and the US, and how that stark difference in support sparked this idea. In Kind Boxes are filled with tangible goods that support growing families, baby and parent alike with natural, organic goods that help families thrive.
 
Resources
Transcript

Rebecca Dekker:

Hi everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Maria Berglund, the founder of In Kind Boxes, about the importance of postpartum care and support.

Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.

Hi everyone. My name is Rebecca Dekker pronouns, she/her and I’ll be your host for today’s episode. I’ll let you know that if there are any content warnings, we’ll post them in the description or show notes that go along with this episode. And now I would like to introduce our honored guest, Maria Berglund. Pronouns she/her is a Canadian mom living in the United States. Maria has three wonderful boys and her work as the founder of In Kind Boxes has been featured both on Good Morning America and in Entrepreneur. I’m so thrilled that Maria is here to share her story today and to talk about the work that she’s doing and the importance of postpartum support. Welcome Maria to the Evidence Based Birth® podcast.

Maria Berglund:

Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be here and share about our work.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. And we are talking on the podcast. If you watch on YouTube, you might catch a glimpse or two of Maria’s adorable puppy who keeps making an appearance as we’ve been chatting. So just so you know, an invitation to go check out our videos on YouTube. We always post our podcasts on YouTube. So Maria, can you start out by sharing what are In Kind Boxes? What does that mean? What is this thing that you do?

Maria Berglund:

Yes, absolutely. So In Kind Boxes is a volunteer run 501C3 nonprofit based near Portland, Oregon. And our mission is to help new parents thrive after birth. And how we do that is by providing families with the natural inorganic essentials that come inside of our gift boxes. And it’s about half of the products are for the mom or birthing parent and half are for baby.

Rebecca Dekker:

Okay. And what kinds of things are in a box when a parent receives a box?

Maria Berglund:

Right. So we were really careful about including items that people would actually use, not just samples or coupons or different things, but actual multi-use items that will last you in those first days, weeks and months after birth. So we have an infant healthcare kit for a baby, that has a digital thermometer, a comb, things like that. There’s a baby book, a swaddle and a few other products. And then things for the mom or birthing parent are more like self-care items or things to help you along your breastfeeding journey. We were doing research, talking to our nonprofit partners like what would you like to see in the boxes for the families you serve? And the digital thermometer was a huge one that they really wanted in there because families are deciding between a thermometer or diapers. Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker:

You’re providing baby healthcare, resources, baby wash, hand sanitizer, things for the baby, but also things for the parent as well?

Maria Berglund:

Yeah. And because I really wanted people to know that this box isn’t just for the baby, but it’s for your postpartum support also so that you feel like you still matter too even after you’ve given birth. Because I think it’s really common for people to feel like baby shower gifts and things is mostly for baby and not for the mom or the birthing parent, but our needs still matter too. It’s important for us to take care of ourselves after birth.

Rebecca Dekker:

Right. So how does somebody get a box? Do people apply to get a box or how do you pass these boxes out or ship them to people and are they free or do people buy them? How does it all work?

Maria Berglund:

It’s two things. Our main purpose is to donate these boxes. That was the whole reason that we started. I wanted to just give all of these nice products to families because I think everyone deserves that quality of care. But we also sell these boxes in our gift shop or in our charity shop as a way to fundraise for the donated boxes. So for every one sold in our shop, we donate one to a family in need. And the way that our gift box, the donation program works is that we partner with several Portland area nonprofits that are providing prenatal or postpartum care to families in need. So we donate those to the organizations and they distribute those to families. But we also have a nationwide donation program where people can apply for gift boxes through our website. And we do have some other partnerships out of state that we donate boxes to monthly, to families through them.

Rebecca Dekker:

It seems like such a brilliant idea to give tangible physical items of support to parents at no cost. So where did this idea come from? Is this come from your background or can you share your own story with us?

Maria Berglund:

Sure. Yeah. So a few years ago, well before In Kind started, but my husband and I heard about in Finland, they have baby boxes that they give to families when they leave the hospital after birth and every family gets one and it’s not quite the same as ours. Our boxes a spinoff of that idea. But I was like, every family deserves to have something to help take care of their new baby. And so we tried looking into something after we started having kids in the US because it’s just such a different experience here versus in Canada when we had our first son. Just the level of care that you receive here is not that good.

Rebecca Dekker:

So go back to us. What was your birth and pregnancy and postpartum experience, how did that compare in Canada to the US? What happened in Canada versus here?

Maria Berglund:

So in Canada it’s pretty similar in terms of when you’re pregnant, the checkups that you have and things like that. But once you have the baby, here, it was just felt like just a sad experience in terms of you just become a number here. You get that one six week postpartum checkup here.

Rebecca Dekker:

In the US you mean?

Maria Berglund:

In the US, yes, sorry. But in Canada, you go home from the hospital. I think it was the next day after we came home that we had a nurse come to our home that everybody gets, and she just helped to make sure that the baby was latching and that he was nursing okay and she gave me a nipple shield. I was struggling with that and she just spent a good amount of time at our home. It was a very comforting and loving experience. She just wanted me to feel supported and feel like I had things under control as much as you can with a newborn baby. And here, I don’t know. And we had more appointments. I can’t tell you off the top of my head, it was 11 years ago, but I felt like empowered and I could do it and I felt supported. Whereas here-

Rebecca Dekker:

There are lots of opportunities for you to talk with healthcare workers who knew what they were doing and could answer your questions and help you with any troubleshooting.

Maria Berglund:

Exactly. Yeah. My provider seemed like she really cared about how I was doing and how the baby was doing. It was like we both were important.

Rebecca Dekker:

Were important, yeah.

Maria Berglund:

And here, it just did not feel that way for me with my second son and I switched providers. I’m not saying that every provider in the US is unsupportive, but it was just surprising to me amongst conversation with my friends as well, just how little support there is here in general for postpartum.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. For our listeners who don’t understand, what’s so important about having support postpartum?

Maria Berglund:

Well, I think it can feel like a really lonely time. Like you’re supposed to figure it out all on your own and then if you are struggling or you feel like you need help or you want to ask for advice or tips or something, that you’re not a good enough mom for being able to figure that all out on your own.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. I think also during the pandemic, it was very isolating for anybody who became a parent for the first time or a subsequent time during the pandemic.

Maria Berglund:

Right, yeah. And I think one resource now that is bettxer, it’s debatable, but I feel like social media and podcasts and just access to, you can find your tribe online or through different avenues that you couldn’t necessarily find 11 years ago when I had my first son. You can find other moms to connect to through groups and things. Even during the pandemic when you couldn’t physically be in the room with someone else, you can probably-

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. But still that virtual digital support probably when you have a new baby just isn’t the same as having people in person caring for you and helping you hands-on.

Maria Berglund:

Totally. And I think in terms of the provider side and what’s happening after you give birth, that is a long way to go. That is, they need to give more resources to people and just show more support for families in that regard.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. And I know that in many countries around the world, it’s standard like you experienced in Canada. Research shows it improves all these health outcomes if you have a nurse make a home visit. And I know very few healthcare workers in the United States who do home visits, obviously certified professional midwives and CNMs who practice in home births make home visits. My sister is a family practice doctor who always makes a home visit after her patients have a baby and she goes and weighs the baby and helps them with breastfeeding and latch and how they’re recovering. She can actually bill for that as if it was a clinic visit. But as far as I know, she’s pretty unique. I don’t know of other… She was actually featured in the newspaper because they’re like, wow, a doctor making a home visit. It’s like something from 100 years ago or longer.

Maria Berglund:

It’s so important and it’s so special and so needed. That’s what everyone deserves to have, and I think that’s awesome.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. But she has to make it a priority. She has to schedule it not when she’s supposed to be in the clinic. But I don’t think any of her patients will ever forget it. Just like you will never forget that visit from your nurse. And I know it’s special as the nurse too, because when I was in nursing school, our nursing school was unique in that they required every rotation, that we do a home visit and we had to do it on our own. We didn’t go with anybody else. And I will never forget, it was a little terrifying knocking on someone’s door, but I had met them before, so in most cases, they’d all given permission for me to make a home visit. And every single person was just thrilled. And I remember going to visit this family that had a new baby and they were just overjoyed to have someone that they’d connected with in the hospital come see them and made them feel really special and cared for. Yeah.

Maria Berglund:

That’s so nice. Yeah. It’s a crazy time when you have a newborn and I feel like we should just be throwing resources and support at families during that time because it’s so hard. It’s a huge adjustment.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. So tell us about the birth of In Kind boxes. So you had this idea from your own experience of how isolating it was and how little postpartum support you got in the United States. How did you start distributing these boxes and getting money to actually put them together?

Maria Berglund:

Right. Yeah. I had the idea and I just ran around the house. I think my youngest at that point was a year and a half, and I just ran around the house collecting all of the things that I want to put in the box and it filled our dining room table. I’m like, “Well, this isn’t going to be sustainable. I’ll be able to donate one of these a year.” So I whittled it down. And then once I had the idea, it was a lot of emailing companies to be like, “This is my idea. Will you donate product or let me buy the product from you to put in the boxes?” And there was a lot of no’s because people are like, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do,” but we just keep at it and trying really hard. And we managed to get some really great partnerships and some people who believed in us from the beginning who were willing to donate and help us get things moving.

Rebecca Dekker:

So tell us more about some of these partnerships. What kinds of organizations are you partnering with? Are they local? Are they national?

Maria Berglund:

Yeah. So I was trying to find local businesses first because I think that is really, I don’t know, important to me that we’re not just shipping a bunch of things from overseas to try and fill our boxes. And I was trying to find female founded companies as well. So Earth Mama Organics, we have several of their products in our boxes and they are from Oregon. And several of the other products are from female founded companies. A local artist designed our heart sticker that is in the gift box as well. So really just trying to build relationships with other female founders and share about what they do and include them in our boxes.

Rebecca Dekker:

So Maria described a box for those of you who are able to watch on YouTube, you see if you could lift it up and just point out some of the items. Wow, that’s a big box. It’s not just a little shoebox. There’s a lot of stuff in there.

Maria Berglund:

Yeah. So it’s when it ships, it’s about four pounds. And this swaddle is an item that we sell on its own, but it also comes in the gift box. And we have four patterns for the swaddle. There’s the heart and alphabet and triangles, and then we also have a rainbow swaddle. So someone has a rainbow baby, that makes a great gift – rainbow swaddle. That’s the affirmation sticker. And then the infant healthcare kit is so great is if you’re traveling and stuff.

Rebecca Dekker:

Oh, that looks like a really nice kit. Yeah.

Maria Berglund:

Yeah. Everything is reusable, like the aspirator, you can just flip the cap and rinse it out. And that comes with the case that you can zip up, take everything with you and yeah, several of the Earth Mama products. And then we have the Hill Farm Baby book. Have you ever seen or used the Indestructibles books?

Rebecca Dekker:

I think they were just starting to come out when my youngest was born. Yeah.

Maria Berglund:

These are the best. I’ve been using these since my oldest was a baby, and we take them on planes and they have, I don’t know, so many titles, dozens and dozens of them. But you can literally chew on these, rip them, you can throw them in the washing machine if they get really messy. They’re just the best thing ever.

Rebecca Dekker:

That’s awesome. Well, thank you for showing us what the boxes look like. I know you have a doula and midwifery partnership program. We have a lot of doulas and midwives who listen to the EBB podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about what that involves?

Maria Berglund:

Yes. So it’s a very special partnership because I think that birth workers are amazing and I wish that I had had both of those during my pregnancy. But anyway, so we started this and what it is, is we donate a gift box a month to our partners, doulas or midwives. And that’s not just Oregon based, it’s across the US. This year we have five partnerships and it is in support of families who are receiving support from a doula and midwife, but they’re a family who is in need. So the doulas and midwives are providing their services to families, essentially giving back to the community in that way, at a reduced cost or free support. So our gift box plus their care is the partnership.

Rebecca Dekker:

Okay. So on your website it says you provide a gift box a month for a year to doulas and midwives who are then promising to pass them on to families in need. And it looks like you have the doulas who are partnering with you. And how can people apply if they want to be considered for this partnership program where they’re provided with boxes to give away?

Maria Berglund:

So we usually open that up in October. So there’ll be an application form on our website where you can go and apply and then we select our following year’s partners by December. We review all the applications. It is really hard. I wish that we could do it for everybody, but it keeps growing. Last year was only three, this year’s five. And so it’s really exciting to be able to do that. But yeah, keep an eye out. If people follow us on social, then it’ll pop up in October.

Rebecca Dekker:

And how can a parent apply if they feel like they need a box? How do they apply to get one?

Maria Berglund:

So what I would say first is check our website to see if you are already receiving support from one of our nonprofit partners, especially if you’re local, because you could get a gift box from them that way. Otherwise, there is an application form on our website under the resources section. It’s right at the top there. You can apply for a gift box. And then there’s also several other wonderful resources there for you to look through if you need further support.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. So go to inkindboxes.org and there’s a nomination form for yourself or for somebody else. And then a long list of different resources that parents can use during the postpartum period, different organizations and phone lines and websites and that sort of thing. And then I was also going to say, it sounds like in order to keep giving more boxes, you need more donors. Is that a correct assumption?

Maria Berglund:

Yes. Yeah. The demand for our boxes is high. It gets more and more every year, and so more people are finding us, which is great, and I want to give them help, but we literally can’t help all the people who are asking. Since the start of the year, we have had over 5,500 applications, and that is just exponentially more than we’ve ever had. So if people can donate and help these families, I’m happy to get boxes out. We have volunteers who are ready to pack boxes, but we need more funding, we need more donations.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. And like you said, if they have resources, they can also buy a box for themself or you can buy it as a gift for a family member and then that covers the cost of one more box that goes to another family in need.

Maria Berglund:

Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. And you have a list of local nonprofits and family organizations that are not just in Oregon. They’re all over the United States. So can local organizations also apply to partner with you to get the boxes?

Maria Berglund:

Yeah. Yeah. Usually they just send me a message through Instagram or an email through the contact button on our website, and I’m always checking all of those things.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah.

Maria Berglund:

Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker:

And if there was a local organization, they could reach out to you and be like, “We’ll cover the cost of the boxes if you help send them to us.”

Maria Berglund:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker:

Okay. Okay. Another question I had is, a lot of our listeners want to make a difference either through nonprofit work or volunteer work or donating their time. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for any of our listeners who want to get involved in helping other families but they’re not sure where to start?

Maria Berglund:

Sure. I think if you want to start something, go for it. People were really confused by what I was wanting to do in the very beginning, and I just kept pushing through even though people were like, “Wait, you’re just going to give all of this stuff away.” I’m like, “Yes, that’s the whole point. I just want everyone to have this stuff.” So I think if you’re nervous about starting something and people just don’t get it, then it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you have a bad idea. Just keep going and take it one step at a time. And then I would say just try and maybe reach out to a local mom group or something if you want to be active in your community, but you don’t know where to go or who you could possibly help. I know there’s food banks or diaper banks sometimes need help wrapping diapers or different things like that. Those are good places to check with as well.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. I was going to say, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Often, there’s somebody in your community already doing this, but in your case, you didn’t see anybody else doing this work?

Maria Berglund:

No. Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. Tell me about your feature on Good Morning America. What was it like getting that spotlight on In Kind Boxes?

Maria Berglund:

It was very cool. It was a surreal experience. I have a lot of anxiety and just trying to stay calm and not be beet-red and sweaty and have a shaky voice for that, was a feat in itself, but it was really cool to be recognized on that level of media to bring awareness to us, and we had a huge influx of traffic to the website and people buying boxes who were just like, “Oh, this is so cool. I wish I had had this when I was having my kids.” And it was lots of wonderful feedback and support. It was very, very cool.

Rebecca Dekker:

That is cool. Is there anything new coming up with In Kind Boxes or what are your goals for the rest of this year?

Maria Berglund:

I think the rest of this year will just be trying to possibly secure grants, like cross your fingers for me that I can get those. We’re always trying to build more connections with organizations who are supporting families during postpartum that are in need. I’m always looking for ways that we can help, because I feel like there are a lot of different avenues of support or organizations offering help for different reasons. We have partnerships with organizations that support refugee families or that support NICU families or that are supporting families going through cancer. There’s a lot of different areas where families need help, and so I might not be able to help everyone who reaches out to us, but I am always very curious about where we could go next or who we can help.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. So collaborating with other groups that are also doing work?

Maria Berglund:

Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. So how can listeners follow you and In Kind Boxes?

Maria Berglund:

Yeah. You can follow us on Instagram. I’m always posting there. I’m trying to share the work we’re doing, but also for that to be another tool of support for people and encouragement. I want it to be a place of positivity and love and kindness and things like that, because sometimes social media can be the opposite of those things. So if our stuff pops up in your feed, I hope that it makes you smile or touches you in some way. We’re also on TikTok if people are on there. It’s a little bit of different content, because not as much like the same content. I feel like it’s a little more raw. It’s like the Wild West over there. But yeah, if people can find us, we’re just @inkindboxes on social. And then if you’re interested in volunteering, if you’re local to us in Oregon, near the Portland area, you could come and volunteer if you want to do that, or if you need support, just go to our website inkindboxes.org.

Rebecca Dekker:

Thank you so much, Maria, for sharing your work with us. Can you give our YouTube watchers just a quick glimpse of your cute puppy before we go? Because he was really well-behaved for the most part, and not… This is the 15-week-old puppy. Thank you. Thank you so much, Maria.

Maria Berglund:

Thank you so much for having me. It was really nice chatting with you, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share.

Rebecca Dekker:

Thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in this week to learn about In Kind boxes and the need for postpartum support. Again, I encourage you. Go to inkindboxes.org and learn more about this amazing growing organization. Thanks everyone. We’ll see you next week. Bye.

This podcast episode was brought to you by the book Babies Are Not Pizzas They’re Born, Not Delivered. Babies Are Not Pizzas is a memoir that tells the story of how I navigated a broken healthcare system and uncovered how I could still receive evidence-based care. In this book, you’ll learn about the history of childbirth and midwifery, the evidence on a variety of birth topics and how we can prevent preventable trauma in childbirth. Babies Are Not Pizzas is available on Amazon as a Kindle, paperback, hardcover and audible book, get your copy today and make sure to email me after you read it to let me know your thoughts.

 

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

Stay empowered, read more :

REPLAY – EBB 130: Home Birth in the Black Community with Isis Rose

REPLAY – EBB 130: Home Birth in the Black Community with Isis Rose

Don't miss an episode! Subscribe to our podcast and leave a review!  iTunes  |  Spotify  |  Google February 7, 2024 - For today's episode, we are highlighting one of our favorite home birth podcast episodes with the replay of a 2020 conversation with student midwife,...

Get your Tickets to the 2024 EBB Virtual Conference - Registration closes March 13!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This