Wednesday, 14 May 2014

child rearing

I find the disparity
in child rearing practices around
the world really interesting. 

22 February 2013

Would you put your baby or toddler outside in the freezing cold for their lunchtime nap? Most Nordic parents wouldn't give it a second thought. For them it's part of their daily routine.
Daytime temperatures this winter in Stockholm have regularly dropped to -5C (23F) but it's still common to see children left outside by their parents for a sleep in the pram.
Wander through the snowy city and you'll see buggies lined up outside coffee shops while parents sip on lattes inside.
And if you are visiting friends and your child needs a nap, you may be offered the garden or balcony instead of a bedroom.
"I think it's good for them to be in the fresh air as soon as possible," says Lisa Mardon, a mother-of-three from Stockholm, who works for a food distribution company.
"Especially in the winter when there's lots of diseases going around... the kids seem healthier."
Her children have been sleeping outside since they were born.
The youngest, Alfred, is two and she puts him outside in the pram to nap once a day, for an hour and a half. When he was younger he slept outside twice a day.
This isn't a recent fashion. Lisa's mother, Gunilla, now 61, says she also did it with Lisa when she was a baby.
"Yes we were doing it back then as well… It was important for her to get fresh air and stay healthy," Gunilla says.
And Lisa's father, Peter, was put outside by his mother to sleep in a pram in the 1950s. Only when it got to around -10C (14F) did she bring him indoors.
Nowadays most day-care centres in Sweden put children outside to rest. It's common to see rows of prams lined up in the snow at nap-time, with youngsters fast asleep inside.
At Forskolan Orren, a pre-school outside Stockholm, all children sleep outside until they reach the age of three.
"When the temperature drops to -15C (5F) we always cover the prams with blankets," says head teacher Brittmarie Carlzon.
"It's not only the temperature that matters, it's also how cold it feels. Some days it can be -15C but it actually feels like -20C (-4F) because of the wind," she says.
"Last year we had a couple of days with a temperature of -20C. On those days we brought the prams inside some of the time the children were sleeping, but most of their sleep they spent outdoors."
One group at the pre-school spends all its time outside, from 09:00 to 15:00 every day. Out in the fresh air they do everything children normally do inside, only going inside at mealtimes, or in unusually cold weather.
The theory behind outdoor napping is that children exposed to fresh air, whether in summer or the depths of winter, are less likely to catch coughs and colds - and that spending a whole day in one room with 30 other children does them no good at all.
Many parents also believe their children sleep better and for longer in the open, and one researcher in Finland - outdoor napping is popular in all the Nordic countries - says she has evidence from a survey of parents to back this up.
"Babies clearly slept longer outdoors than indoors," says Marjo Tourula. While indoor naps lasted between one and two hours, outdoor naps lasted from 1.5 to three hours.
"Probably the restriction of movements by clothing could increase the length of sleep, and a cold environment makes swaddling possible without overheating," she says.
According to her research, -5C is the best temperature for an outdoor nap - though some parents she spoke to even put their children out at -30C.
But do children who sleep outside end up catching fewer coughs and colds?
Paediatrician Margareta Blennow says reports from the Swedish Environmental protection agency show conflicting results.
"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," she says.
"In other studies there wasn't a difference."
Martin Jarnstrom, head of one of the Ur och Skur group of pre-schools , is another big advocate of outdoor naps, though he emphasises that while the weather may be cold, the child must be warm.
"It's very important that the children have wool closest to their body, warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag," he says.
There is a Swedish saying that encapsulates this thought - "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing."
Another saying sums up what Swedes are likely to think when toddlers in other countries are kept indoors in sub-zero temperatures: "A little fresh air never hurt anyone."


Anonymous said...

I had no idea!

Gam Kau said...

It's interesting isn't it ExactingL? I guess it isn't only parenting differences, it's all the many ways people live all over the world - such variety!

Yuko Jones said...

I live in a cold climate where temperature can drop below zero during winter. We take our boys outside to play as long as it's above 20. But I've never thought of letting them take a nap outside (unless they happen to fall asleep on the stroller). It makes sense though, as long as the baby is bundled up and warm, the fresh air would help them take a nice nap. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Fortunately I had heard of this before directly from a Danish friend who told me yes, they bundled up their baby and left her outside on their balcony to sleep in her little basket or whatever they used. (The hospital were against her using any kind of drugs for pain relief during her labour/delivery as well but that's another issue!). After that I began to change my attitudes towards the cold that I hate. It really is better to believe there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!

Shelley said...

That is fascinating. Where I grew up (Oklahoma) the wind would probably be a factor, but regardless this isn't a practice I can imagine being condoned in that part of the world. Obviously it works for them!

Frugal Scholar said...

I think the famous Dr Spock noted that New England parents did this too, while parents in the South bundled their children up even indoors.

And I remember a story about Danish tourists leaving their baby in a carriage outside a restaurant in NYC. The police intervened. The tourists couldn't believe that leaving babies outside while parents ate was not a universal practice.

Gam Kau said...

SilkP - "It really is better to believe there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!"
I love this - so much of how we live is a matter of attitude. I will have to remember this next winter when I am complaining. :)

Gam Kau said...

Yuko - we always left the window cracked in the kids room even during wintertime and found that they slept much deeper and longer - maybe they were hibernating! I sleep much better when the room is very cold.

Gam Kau said...

Shelly - when we were in Copenhagen we were so surprised at the amount of prams left outside of shops and restaurants. Between all the unlocked bicycles and the unaccompanied prams, we were VERY impressed at the lack of crime. Now I read this article and understand the reasoning for the prams.

Gam Kau said...

FrugalS - I have never heard that story about the Danish tourists. That's so funny and a bit sad because it is reflective of the respective cultures. How many cultures are there left in the world where you could leave an unaccompanied baby in a pram on the pavement? Aside from native peoples (who don't have pavements), maybe Japan? That level of safety and trust is astounding to me and it makes me envious.

Stephen Andrew said...

My mother is a tired and true WASP but she would nod in agreement to this Scandinavian knowledge. I wasn't a napper but she had no qualms sending me out into the cold for hours. Her logic was always that I couldn't catch a cold in air that's too cold for a cold to live :) I think I need to show this to her.

Gam Kau said...

Stephen - ha, your mother is a wise woman. Funny how we are taught to be wary of cold temps. I always think of the reindeer herding people going about their lives while I sit in a climate controlled environment.

Anonymous said...

I was told by our Pediatrician to NEVER turn on the heat in the house at night. He said the optimal temp for a baby to sleep in is in the 40*s F or lower. I was very surprised with this info - i always thought you needed to keep babies much warmer than that (just think of the temp in the womb). I followed his advice and my daughter (now age 15) did in fact sleep soundly ... and was NEVER sick. The pediatrician also said this allows the body to self-regulate it's own temperature and the child will become better able to adapt to different seasonal changes. It makes sense.

Gam Kau said...

Thanks for sharing that Anon - sounds like you had a clever and practical pediatrician! I wonder if some of this should apply to adults. We live in such artificial climate controlled environments and it seems to me our bodies aren't very good at self regulating to adapt to different temps. My parents are really only comfortable between 68-72; such a narrow range!