Let Sleeping Babies Lie: Chilly Temps Build Tough Nordic Tots

Cold weather won't stop Scandinavian moms from their age-old practice of parking baby prams outside in all weathers...and leaving the babies napping.

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Scandinavia, as much of the East Coast and Northern Europe, has experienced especially cold and snow-filled winters lately. Yet chilly temperatures and massive snow won't stop Scandinavian and Icelandic moms from their age-old practice of parking baby prams outside in all weather...and leaving the babies napping. It's sort of the turn-down-the-thermostat, slip-on-another-sweater theory, applied to unsuspecting tots. What do these moms know that the rest of us might learn and put into practice?

No Bad Weather, Only Bad Clothing

The first noteworthy idea here is that being outside is what we all need more of, in any weather. And that sleeping in the cold is just fine. In Scandinavia and Iceland, strollers are built to withstand the elements, and moms and dads wheel the babies around in all types of weather (there's even a subset of stroller-pushing Swedish parents known as "latté mamas" and "latté papas") as well as leaving them outside at home, or while out and about at cafés, to take a nap inside the pram. Of course, the babies are well bundled, and the strollers are weatherized, too.

"We are all raised with the thought that all outside is good for you," says Gothenburger Anna-Sara Roucoulet. "And I think the kids sleep a lot better when outside. Calms them down, I guess."

"It is a common thing here in Iceland for parents to have their babies sleep outside. Many parents believe good, fresh air is a key factor for a good sleep for babies, and also believe it's good for their health and will make them stronger," says Icelandic guide, Arnar Hjaltestad.

A Safe Society

To non-Scandinavian eyes, especially those of parents, the idea might strike a certain sort of terror. What about baby-napping (instead of a baby, napping)? Child abduction? Stray cats? Well, Scandi parents interviewed for this article just don't feel the instinctive fear that other parents might when setting their babies in prams outside. And isn't that basically the kind of society we strive for for us all, city or country dwellers? Places where kids are safe to walk and bike to school, and babies can sleep outside in a stroller.

Community Parenting

Of course what strikes outsiders about this idea is not only our perception of how dangerous it must be, but also our idea that we can't leave babies, even sleeping, unattended. That idea also doesn't occur to the moms and dads who practice outdoor baby "chilling" and in fact, where prams are lined up, the parents usually have a battery-operated or human monitor to check up on the babies. One essential part of the custom is to not park your baby outside for hours without checking on him or her.

This all may be part of the creation of "free-range kids" talked about by author Lenore Skenazy.

We might still be on the fence about this one, but what do you think? Do fresh air naps make free-range kids?