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Scandinavian Parents Claim Their Babies Nap Best Outside During Winter

Parenthood looks different for everyone, and though most of us try not to judge other parenting practices, we're sometimes in for a shock when we see how other cultures handle certain aspects of raising a child.

I think many people here wouldn't even think about letting their baby nap outside unsupervised, but in Scandinavian countries, it's extremely common.

Not only is it common, it's actually considered a cultural practice.

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Some start as young as two days, but typically the practice starts when the baby is two weeks old. Yes, in the frigid cold. Some will only allow their baby outside in temperatures at -15°C (5°F) or above, but some are willing to go down to -25°C (-16°F).

It's not only parents either, preschools have babies sleep outside until they're three years old.

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Brittmarie Carlzon, the head teacher at a preschool outside Stockholm, elaborates on their regulations regarding temperatures. “When the temperature drops to -15°C (5°F) we always cover the prams with blankets […] It’s not only the temperature that matters, it’s also how cold it feels. Some days it can be -15°C (5°F) but it actually feels like -20°C (-4°F) because of the wind.” Any day that's below -20°C (-4°F), they keep the kids inside.

So...why? What are the benefits to letting babies sleep outside?

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There are actually quite a few benefits that Scandanavians cite when supporting their practice. Linda McGurk, author of There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather, talks about the concept of friluftsliv. That is, simply put, the idea of connecting with nature as a means of self-improvement and bettering health. They start teaching friluftsliv young, letting babies sleep outside being one method of doing so.

Speaking of the effects of being outdoors on one's health.

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Another claim made is that babies who spend more time outside, be it through napping or by attending a forest school (a school which is held primarily outside), ward off illness and improve immune system function as they take fewer sick days than children attending traditional schools.

And one reason many of us can relate to.

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It's no surprise to us that nature sounds are soothing, which Mcgurk references in her blog. Studies show that sounds like birds chirping, wind through trees, and running water helps relax people, which in turn promotes better sleep.

If you want to let your baby nap outside, how should you go about it?

McGurk explains the proper method for letting your baby sleep outside. They should be in a stroller or reclining seat, have a wool base layer, followed by a snowsuit and hat, and a bunting bag.

Check on your baby frequently, feeling their chest for the most accurate measure of their temperature. Consider any potential dangers like animals, and if you're worried, leave a baby monitor in the stroller with them.

Are we ready to try it ourselves?

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While this seems like a wonderful practice with many different benefits, I have a feeling it will be a while before the idea is widely welcome here. People worry, often with good intentions, and seeing a baby outside on their own would raise too many questions.

Hopefully, we progress, though, as there's nothing wrong with allowing the next generation to experience nature a little more often.