Scandinavian babies nap outside, even in the cold. Maybe they're on to something.




America has some interesting unspoken rules surrounding caring for children, making cultural differences difficult to navigate. What might be normal in one person's country or culture may be considered dangerous in America. With that in mind, it may be surprising to learn that in Scandinavian countries parents often put their babies outside to nap. Even when they're away from the house, babies get bundled up and set outside oftentimes without their parent or caregiver.

I can feel the shock through the screen.

Yes, these babies are placed outside in the summer or winter to catch their midday nap while their parents check in on them from time to time. It may seem strange to people who aren't from Scandinavia and doing so in America may warrant an investigation by child protective services.

But now that Scandinavia-style forest schools are on the rise in America, we could be in for a shift. Maybe this type of child-rearing will be normalized in America eventually.
Just like forest schools are a little "out there" here in America, they have been the norm in other countries for years. So perhaps outdoor napping will become a thing here, too. But why do Scandinavian parents give their infants the boot when it's time to catch some Z's? Parents and researchers believe that napping outside lowers a child's risk of being exposed to germs, makes them happier and they sleep longer.

Sleeping in freezing cold weather, even if properly bundled, doesn't seem like a relaxing experience to me, but I'm not a baby so what do I know? A Finnish study found that babies sleep longer when they nap outdoors, so maybe these parents are on to something after all.
In 2020, Danish musician Amalie Bruun shared a photo on Instagram revealing that she places her baby outside to sleep. Commenters informed the star that they also put their babies outside or that they themselves slept outside as infants. Of course, there are risks to an infant sleeping outside like sudden bad weather or someone who may mean the child harm. But most parents who allow their infants to sleep outdoors stay close by and check on them frequently.

Scandinavian parents seem to truly feel that this practice is best and a good way to make sure their child is getting fresh air. But before Americans go bundling up little Joey and tossing him on the patio for a nap, keep in mind that not everyone will understand. In 1997, a Danish actor living in New York was famously arrested and strip searched for placing her baby on the patio of a local restaurant to nap while she and the baby's father had drinks inside.

While there are definitely some cultural differences between Scandinavian and American parenting styles, most parents are just looking for the best way to get their kids to sleep. If outside is the key to long naps so an exhausted parent can get a few minutes of quiet, put on your parka and enjoy the baby snores.




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