We talked last week about taking kids outside to play every single day, even in cold weather. Well, listen to this…
In Scandinavia, it’s common for people to take their babies outside for naps. And, when they go into restaurants or shops, they’ll even leave their sleeping babies alone in prams outside!
“When I lived in Helsinki, I noticed baby carriages outside most cafés,” says my sister-in-law Emily. “I assumed the babies were inside with their parents. Nope, they were sleeping soundly outside in their carriages while their parents were hanging out inside. Now there’s a country with a low crime rate for you!”
“The parents are usually really close by, near the window,” says photographer and mother of two Jenny Brandt, who lives in southern Sweden and went to Copenhagen to take a few photos for Cup of Jo. “I think the whole thing started because the cafés and shops are so small.”
What happens if a baby wakes up? “I’ve walked into a café letting the guests know that ‘the baby in the blue pram has started to wiggle around and looks like he’s about to get up,’ ” says Jenny.
It sounds crazy at first, right? But it would actually be amazing and liberating, I think, as long as your town was safe. How wonderful to just pop into a store quickly without waking up your baby; or to eat dinner with your spouse while your baby sleeps, and then all walk home together.
Plus, many Scandinavian parents believe it’s healthy for babies and children to be exposed to cold air for a few hours a day. In fact, the Finnish Ministry of Labour specifically recommends it (see page 24 under “naps”). “Parents feel that their child is more alert and eats better after sleeping outside,” says designer and mom of two Elisabeth Dunker of the blog Fine Little Day , who lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“My friends tell me that in Swedish daycare, naptime for babies is always outside in their prams, even on the coldest days,” says my friend Kim, who lives in Sweden. “They bundle them up and make them cozy, and park them outside. They say it builds health for the kids–physical toughness as well as reducing colds/germs that would spread if they were all cooped up inside.”
Not all Scandinavian parents are completely sold on the idea, though. “I’ve never let my kids sleep outdoors unattended, wouldn’t dare to!” says Elisabeth. “I would be afraid that someone would take them.”
I have to say, I kind of love this idea! Toby sleeps through the night starting at 7:30pm — it would be amazing to be able to take him out to dinner, where he could sleep soundly in the fresh air. Think how much money you’d save on nighttime babysitters, and it’s really nice for the family to be together, even when the baby is asleep. But it’s illegal in the United States. In fact, back in 1999, a Danish mom visiting Manhattan left her sleeping baby girl in the stroller outside a restaurant–and got arrested.
What do you think? Isn’t this fascinating? Does this all seem nuts or amazing to you? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts — all the cultural norms and differences are incredible! Every country, city, family and parent finds what works best for their sweet babies. (It reminds me of this wonderful documentary.)
P.S. More Motherhood Monday posts… xo