Why Do Scandinavian Babies Nap Outside in Cold Weather?

Scandinavian babies are placed outside their homes to nap in cold weather as early as two weeks. Though this may seem weird to some, letting babies stay outside in cold weather is a culture in the Scandinavian countries, consisting of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Aland. These countries’ temperatures can drop up to negative 5 Fahrenheit during the day. Clothing is an essential thing that is given priority. Babies wear layers of clothes that are appropriate for winter. The strollers or prams where babies are laid down have insulated boxes to add warmth for the babies; warm blankets and mattresses are added at the bottom; a blanket is on top of the baby’s body; and a zip-up cover or net as a top cover. A baby monitor can also be installed.

Brief History of the Practice

In the early 1930s, an epidemic of tuberculosis was widespread in Russia. Though vaccinations and treatments were available, people believed that the epidemic would be best avoided and cured through good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle. Neighboring countries then thought that staying outside was a proactive thing to prevent experiencing the epidemic. In the 1950s and 1970s, more and more countries, including the Scandinavian countries, made it a habit to let their youngsters stay outdoors. This practice was applied in schools starting from kindergarten. Even though these countries face cold weather and a large amount of snow in the winter, it is not an excuse for children not to stay outside. Aside from a good clothing, it is a must for everyone, not just babies to keep their skin moisturized in a cold weather.

This practice of letting babies stay outside on a cold weather, has become so common that a space is reserved outside of coffee shops and grocery stores for strollers in Scandinavian countries. 

In fact, there is research conducted by Marjo Tourula, Tarja Polkki, and Arjo Isola entitled “The Cultural Meaning of Children Sleeping Outdoors in Finnish Winter” which aimed to gather mothers’ perspectives towards the practice. Research has found some benefits that mother’s have observed in their babies. 

baby on a stroller in winter

Benefits of Letting babies nap outside in cold weather

woman carrying a baby in snow

1. Better quality and increased duration of periods of sleep

According to the 2008 study from the University of Oulu, Finland, mentioned above, babies who sleep outside tend to have better sleep quality as the colder air helps them sleep longer. Of course, this applies to houses in Scandinavian countries where they have their own front yard and space for their children to stay outside and are far from the sounds of vehicles. Since babies are sensitive to sound, small noises wake them immediately, and the inside of the house is prone to all kinds of noises, such as the noises coming from the television, telephone, or cell phone. Even the tiny sound of kitchen equipment, where moms spend almost all their time, can wake the baby up.

2. Reduces coughs and colds

Pathogenic bacteria can live in closed environments such as people’s homes because there are surfaces that can potentially harbor these bacteria. Cleaning is not enough to avoid them; proper ventilation should be inside the house. Letting babies stay outside helps them avoid the risks of getting these pathogens that lead to coughs and colds. The study mentioned above has found that babies whose parents let their younger ones sleep outside have adapted more conveniently to the country’s weather.

3. Improves appetite

Toddlers who sleep outside tend to have a better appetite. Since they sleep longer, they wake up in good moods and will want to eat more joyfully than usual.

4. Brain development

The study says that the relationship between nature and a child can start while the child sleeps outside. The sound of the birds, the smell of the trees, and the gushing of the wind help these babies’ brain development. Mothers who participated in the research said that they hope to be engaged in nature when they grow up to participate in outdoor activities such as skiing, mountain climbing, and other activities in which they would like to be involved.

Tips for Parents to Encourage Children to go Outside

Although the discussion about letting babies sleep outside will have different perspectives especially with countries with different cultures, acknowledging that children needs to go outside in order to have vitamin C is also vital. Therefore, here are some helpful tips that parents can do to encourage children go outside:

Make their stay outdoors enjoyable. 

Parents can build basketball courts or playpens on the backyard that their children can access at their own time. Make it as colorful and engaging as possible. At the same time, it should be baby proof or should be a place that children will be safe and far from harm. 

Start a daily routine with them

Since children are great imitators, it would be best that they can see their parents staying outdoors as well. Gardening activities, morning jogs, exercise are fun way that children and parents can do together. Aside from that, parents can build a joyful and interesting bonding with their children. 

Introduce them to a playmate

The best way for children to be interested in going outside is by having a playmate or friend that they love spending time with. Parents can talk with neighbors to allow their children to get to know each other.

Final thoughts

The reason for Scandinavian Countries letting their babies staying cold weather is simply because they want them to be more comfortable in their sleep and become healthier. Parents believe that such practice is necessary and allows them to offer good experience and adventure for their babies at an early age.