HEALTH Education: Why Babies Are Left To Sleep In Freezing Weather

HEALTH Education: Why Babies Are Left To Sleep In Freezing Weather

Most Nordic parents leave their babies out in freezing weather.

Strolling along the streets in the cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavík, you would find strollers lined up outside coffee shops. Their parents are sipping hot beverages indoors, while their babies are bundled up tightly, napping outdoors!

For generations, Icelandic babies have napped outside in freezing temperatures

Icelanders tend to brag about their hardiness when it comes to cold weather and beating wind. They usually trace it to Viking ancestors, who fought through heavy storms just to get to this isolated island.

While we are hardy—Icelanders live to an average age of 82, more than 10 years longer than the global average—there are more factors to consider than Viking DNA, like the fact that we’re trained to find the cold rejuvenating: as infants, Icelanders nap outdoors in all weather.

PramParty.jpgPhoto of a Reykjavik pram party from Reykjavik Daily Blog  The first noteworthy idea here is that being outside is what we all need more of, in any weather. And that sleeping 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.    Source Tree Hugger

Reykjavík’s biggest shopping street fills with babies sleeping in their strollers in summer. They’re there in the winter, too, napping in sub-zero temperatures. If they’re not on the street, they’re on balconies or in the backyard, while their parents huddle over hot tea indoors.

The custom of wheeling your baby outside to sleep is such a big deal in Iceland that Icelanders who live in big apartment buildings sometimes keep a special carriage on the balcony—for napping only.

Source: Stay at home MUM

But why? For a long time, indoor sleeping conditions simply weren’t that great. With poor air circulation and overcrowded living conditions, traditional Icelandic homes were muggy and sometimes smoky from cooking.

In the beginning of the 20th century, a tuberculosis epidemic shook the nation. Around the same time, the baby stroller became available in Iceland, finally widely manufactured and globally available after its invention in the UK almost 200 years earlier. In 1926, Dr. David Thorsteinsson published a pedagogy book in Iceland arguing for the benefits of outdoor life and fresh air to strengthen children’s immune systems.

Thorsteinsson suggested that parents used the trendy portable cradle—the stroller—to let their children sleep outside, and a new tradition suddenly emerged. The second generation of Icelanders in the 20th century napped outside, and so has every generation since then.

Today, parents are not worrying about infectious diseases when they put their babies to rest outside. Most Icelanders have come to feel that their children also take longer and better naps when they sleep outside, undisturbed by noises from inside the house.

 “The second generation of Icelanders in the 20th century napped outside, and so has every generation since then.” 

Naptime usually happens like this: Baby gets annoyed (baby is tired). Baby is put in carriage. Baby is rolled around until it falls asleep. Carriage is left in a safe spot. Parents leave.

So if you see what looks like an abandoned carriage during your stroll around the streets of Reykjavík, don’t panic. The baby inside is well-prepared: muffled in wool and fleece, wearing a balaclava and two pairs of mittens.

If the temperature goes much below 32°F, parents may think twice before leaving their infants outside. This is not the case for everyone though—other parents let their children sleep outside no matter the temperature. And although the air outside might have always been fresh in 1935, that’s not always the case nowadays, so parents may avoid parking lots and big streets during rush-hour.

 “If you see what looks like an abandoned carriage during your stroll around the streets of Reykjavík, don’t panic.” 

Iceland’s crime rate is very low, with less than two murders per year in the capital city. In this nation of 320,000, people tend to have faith in their neighbors, enough to feel secure in leaving their babies outside houses and coffee shops.

And even though the prams may look abandoned and forgotten in the streets, they are under constant surveillance by parents who keep one eye out the window and a baby monitor in hand.

Sometimes a good Samaritan will enter a coffee shop to announce that one of the babies outside is crying. A sheepish parent usually then springs to feet and rushes outside, only to reappear a few seconds later carrying a confused, but rosy-cheeked child.




At daycare in Stockholm, children are put to sleep outside. This usually ends when they reach the age of three.


Leaving their babies outside in the cold is a Nordic tradition passed down from generations. It has become part of the baby’s daily routine. They believe this tradition makes the babies healthier.

“I think it’s good for them to be in the fresh air as soon as possible,” Lisa Mardon, a mother of three from Stockholm, told BBC.

BabiesBelowZero3.jpgImage Tree Hugger

“Especially in the winter when there’s lots of diseases going around… the kids seem healthier.”

And many experts are strong proponents of this age-old tradition.

During the early 20th century, a tuberculosis epidemic broke out in Iceland. It was during that time in 1926, that Dr. David Thorsteinsson contended the idea of letting their kids sleep outside in a stroller to strengthen their immune system.

Roland Sennerstam, a pediatric specialist in Sweden, claimed that spending a few more hours outdoors reduces the rate of catching deadly infections.

“It’s a misconception that cold temperatures make us sick,” said Sennerstam. “We get sick because we contract viruses and bacteria when we spend too much time inside, stand too close to each other on the subway, and so on.”

These Nordic parents feel that such a habit also enables their child to sleep better.

According to Outdoor Families magazine, a Swedish mother of two, Josephine Strand, said, “In my experience they sleep better outside since they get fresh air, and they also get used to sleeping with normal background noise.”

However, Martin Jarnstrom, head of an Ur och Skur group of pre-schools, stressed that the child must be kept warm when they are placed outside.

All in all, in spite of the above claims, Pediatrician Margareta Blennow said there’s no definite proof to support the benefits.

“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,” Blennow told BBC. “In other studies there wasn’t a difference.”


winter sled rideIf it’s snowing outside, you have all the more reason to get out there and enjoy it! Just be sure to dress properly. Source Tree Hugger


Nursery children standing in the snow throw ice cold water over their own heads

Teachers and doctors claim it is good for them and will stop them getting sick

how Siberian kindergarten children are taught to love the Russian winter

This shocking footage shows around a dozen tiny children running out into the snow wearing just their pants before they throw ice cold water all over themselves.

The nursery children, aged between three and six, are taking part in a daily ritual which teachers and doctors claim will keep them healthy.

A paediatrician checks the children are suitable, and permission from parents is needed as the ice showers are not compulsory.

But as the footage shows, most of the children taking part seem enthusiastic and appeared to enjoy their drenching, despite the cold.

The youngsters get to warm up in a sauna first, before running out, many barefoot into the snow.

One little boy in the footage said: “It’s not cold, I feel warm.”

While a girl called Alina adds: “It’s exciting.”

These extraordinary scenes are taking place at Sibiryachok – or Little Siberian – state kindergarten number 317 in Krasnoyarsk, where ice bucket showers are part of the curriculum.

These pictures were taken during a week when temperatures were mild for the time of year, between minus 6 celsius and minus 18 celsius.

Pre-school teacher and swimming coach Oksana Kabotko, 41, told the Siberian Times : “Children have the ice cold shower if it’s no colder than minus 25C.

“Those children who have ice cold shower daily, not once every two weeks, come regularly to the kindergarten.

“Of course, they can go down with some illness during the winter but it passes more quickly, after a few days at home.

“Those who don’t take an ice shower may spend up to two weeks at home recovering.”

She added: “The children who do have the ice showers are also are more sensible, balanced – and optimistic.

how Siberian kindergarten children are taught to love the Russian winter

“They are better organised.

“But just imagine, you need to do it every morning, you require the willpower to do that.

“We don’t force anyone.

“There are also some children who don’t go to our kindergarten but join us just for the shower.”

Supporters of the ice buckets for children cite a 1997 study in Sochi by Dr V Kharitonov when blood samples of students was tested before and after they took such treatment.

This found statistically significant changes in a majority of indicators regarding the cellular immune system, according to the report in the Siberian Times .

Another Siberian kindergarten director, Olesya Osintseva claimed there were many cases of her young pupils going down with flu before she ordered ice showers.

She said: “There were moments when half of the children attending the kindergarten were unwell.

“It was obvious that something needed to be done to make them grow stronger and be more resilient against viruses.

“This is how we came to the idea of boosting their immunity up by doing this exercise with buckets of chilly water outside in the cold.

“We tested it on ourselves and our own children first, when both adults and children were first going out and splashing their feet with water, and in some months pouring cold water bucket over our heads.

“What six months of these water exercises showed was an immediately stronger resistance to illnesses.

“Our kids were now able to go to the kindergarten and even if someone had infection, they were no longer catching it.”





The only reason to have a child’s immune system tested is if the colds often lead to more serious problems. … Typical cold symptoms are a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing and a mild sore …. In winter, children with colds can still play outside. … These PMC articles are best viewed in the iBooks reader. (NCBI – NIH)



Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Winter can seem so much worse when you’ve got a vulnerable little one to protect. Try these strategies to stave off chilly weather, guard against germs, and keep your baby healthy.

It’s true that caring for a baby in the dead of winter has challenges, but they shouldn’t force you to be stuck in the house with your sweetie. Unfortunately, we can’t send you and your bambino to Bermuda until it warms up. But to help, we did tap a team of experts to glean their smartest tips for handling four common cold-weather troubles. The forecast just got sunnier!

Winter Woe: It’s Freezing Out

Regardless of what your mom may say, it’s okay to take baby out in the cold as long as it’s not uncomfortably chilly or windy and you don’t gallivant all afternoon. Kids younger than 2 are more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, however, so be cautious. When in doubt, stay in, particularly if your child is under 6 months. “Young babies aren’t able to regulate their temperature well and can lose heat quickly,” warns pediatrician Jennifer Shu, M.D., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn.

If you do venture out, dress your munchkin in layers. Tots 12 months and older require the same amount of clothing as you do, and younger babies need one extra layer, says Robert Bonner, M.D., a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. A hat is a must, and be sure to protect your snow bunny’s fingers and toes. He’ll need waterproof boots once he’s walking.

Watch out: If his lips have turned blue, or he has a pale nose, fingertips, or ears, he might be too cold. He might be too hot if the back of his neck feels warm or sweaty, his cheeks are flushed, or he has a bumpy rash on his chest or tummy. Also beware if he starts acting fussy or lethargic.

Winter Woe: Her Skin is Dry and Itchy

Running the heat can dry out your child’s skin — the last thing she needs if, like approximately 10 percent of babies, she has eczema, says Seth Orlow, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine, in New York City. A few precautions can keep her complexion in the clear.

Limit baths to under ten minutes and use lukewarm water. Soap can be irritating, so instead try a mild hypoallergenic cleanser free of dyes and fragrance (such as Dove Sensitive Skin Nourishing Body Wash or Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo). Pat her dry with a towel, then apply a hypoallergenic lotion or cream (such as Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Lotion or Mustela Hydra B?b? Body).

Before you head out, slather an unscented emollient (like Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment or Vaseline Petroleum Jelly) on her face and lips to protect her from harsh winds. If her skin still looks red or remains dry despite your efforts, check with your pediatrician, who might recommend a prescription treatment such as a topical barrier enhancer (EpiCeram, perhaps) or cortisone cream.

Winter Woe: He’s Cold in His Crib

Loose blankets increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which means that moms in northern latitudes are challenged with how to keep their sleeping babies toasty. First, dress your tot in a warm all-in-one and light cotton cap. Then, swaddle him tightly in a light blanket or use a sleep sack (it’s like a sleeping bag with armholes).

It’s best to keep the nursery at a temperature that’s comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. This may require leaving your thermostat a smidge higher than usual at night. What about simply using a space heater? Stephen Hersey, M.D., staff physician in the section of ambulatory pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, warns against it. “The heater could tip over and the room could go up in flames, or the baby could touch it and end up with serious burns.” Better to caulk or weather-strip windows or add insulating curtains or shades.

Don’t overcompensate and crank up the temp too high or put him in too many layers — being overheated ups the risk for SIDS. Check on your baby once he’s asleep: If he’s sweaty, flushed, or breathing rapidly, turn down the heat or remove his swaddle or cap.

Winter Woe: Germs are Everywhere

Winter is prime time for viruses — and with her immature immune system, your baby is basically a sitting duck. Aside from staying up-to-date on vaccinations, the best way to protect her is to limit her exposure. Thoroughly and frequently scrub your hands with soap for 20 seconds under warm running water, then rinse well. In a pinch, you can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (look for one that’s 60 to 95 percent isopropanol or ethanol), but it’s not quite as effective as washing. Sanitizer can be toxic, so don’t use it on your tot’s hands and keep it out of reach.

Because public places are rife with viruses, keep your infant close to home, if possible, during her first eight weeks, when she’s most vulnerable. “If you need to run to the store or can’t bear to miss your friend’s holiday party, stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who has cold symptoms,” Dr. Shu advises. Think twice before letting acquaintances touch your sweetie, but if they must, ask them to wash their hands first.

Another way to ward off bugs: “Continue breastfeeding as long as possible,” Dr. Hersey says. Breast milk supplies your child with antibodies that can help her fight illnesses.

Winter babies do require extra cautions, but remember the upside: You have the perfect excuse to stay home, a new little someone to snuggle as the snow drifts down — and months to tone up before swimsuit season.

Worth a Shot

For tots younger than 5, the flu isn’t only an inconvenience; it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia that could land your baby in the hospital. That’s why a flu vaccine, which can prevent 66 percent of infections in young children, is an absolute must for kids 6 months of age and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. Because an infant younger than 6 months is too young for the shot, anyone who will be in close contact with him (including parents, grandparents, siblings, and caregivers) should be certain to get one. “The idea is to create ‘herd immunity’ so everyone around your baby is protected, which, in turn, shields your child, says CDC spokesperson Jeff Dimond. This year’s shot guards against H1N1 and two seasonal viruses (influenza A and B). If it’s your child’s first flu shot, he’ll need two doses at least four weeks apart to be fully protected.

Baby’s Sick

How to tell if your kiddo has caught a cold or the flu — and what you can do to help her feel better.

When your infant starts sneezing, coughing, refusing food, or acting seriously fussy, take her temperature (preferably rectally — sorry!). If she’s under 3 months and has a fever of 100.4?F or higher, see a doctor ASAP to rule out a bacterial infection or other serious issue, says Jennifer Shu, M.D. Call your pediatrician if your 3- to 6-month-old has a temp of 101?F, or if she’s over 6 months and has a fever of 102?F. Whatever her age, always check in with a doc if she has trouble breathing or is extremely irritable, sleepy, or lethargic.

Cold and flu symptoms are often similar. With a cold, she may sneeze, have a runny or stuffy nose, a dry cough, or a slight fever. Signs of the flu tend to be more severe and can include a moderate to high fever, headache, chills, sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, and vomiting. Suspect she has the flu? Take her to the doctor, who may give her a rapid flu test, and, if she’s very sick or at risk for complications, prescribe an antiviral medicine like Tamiflu to lessen the illness’s length or severity.

To help your tot feel better, you can use an over-the-counter fever reducer such as infant acetaminophen or — provided she’s older than 6 months and isn’t vomiting — infant ibuprofen. You probably took cold and cough meds as a kid, but they aren’t effective for young children and could have dangerous side effects, so don’t use them.

Clear a stuffy nose with saline drops and a nasal suction bulb, advises Robert Bonner, M.D. A cool-mist humidifier can loosen mucus and ease her cough too. Or run a hot shower and sit in the steamy bathroom with your tiny patient. Another trick that can relieve chest congestion: Lay her facedown on your lap, and gently tap her back with the cupped palm of your hand.

Germ Patrol

Feel awkward asking friends to wash their hands? Try these tips from experienced moms:

“When I brought my baby, Willoughby, to dinner with friends, I dramatically took a gigantic bottle of hand sanitizer out of my bag and put it on the table with a clunk. They got the joke, smiled, and helped themselves.” Heidi K. Eklund; Poughkeepsie, New York

“I always felt embarrassed asking people to wash up before holding Hayes. So I blamed it on our pediatrician. I figured my request held more weight coming from an authority figure, and I didn’t have to look overprotective.” Linley Fraser; Hailey, Idaho

“When Brody first came home, I posted a sign saying, ‘My baby is a germophobe!’ on our front door. Later, I propped the sign up on a bottle of hand sanitizer (subtle, I know!). It works and usually gets a laugh.” Kim Kempinski; Phoenix, Arizona

“A few years ago, at a convention, a stranger approached Zach’s stroller and put her finger in his mouth. I was horrified! From then on, I started carrying my son in a slingto shield him.” Angela Hoy; Bangor, Maine

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of American Baby magazine.

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