American parents may think they’ve got the naptime drill down, ensuring that their infant is on her back with no loose covers or pillows, possibly in a sleep sack if it’s chilly. But Nordic parents add one element to the mix: fresh air, even in winter.
The age-old Nordic tradition of allowing infants and toddlers an outside nap in a stroller is making headlines after a recent BBC story highlighted the practice. The optimal outdoor temp is 23 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Marjo Tourula, a research coordinator at the University of Oulu in Finland who wrote her thesis on children sleeping outdoors.
Parents she interviewed said they believed sleeping outside would toughen the child to harsh climates, help them sleep and eat better, and contribute to their overall health, according to the BBC.
Even in day care settings, children often sleep outside in Sweden.
“When the temperature drops to [5 degrees F] we always cover the prams with blankets,” Stockholm preschool teacher Brittmarie Carlzon told the BBC.
Others say napping outside helps ward off coughs and colds. But evidence is iffy.
“In some studies they found pre-schoolers who spent many hours outside generally — not just for naps — took fewer days off than those who spent most of their time indoors,” pediatrician Margareta Blennow said. “In other studies there wasn’t a difference.”
Of course, the babies are bundled up, often in wool, and many parents put cream on their faces in the coldest weather.
Think twice before experimenting with this in the United States, though. A Danish mom who tried it in New York City was arrested.