Why Danish Babies Sleep Outdoors and the Benefits of This Practice

In many parts of the world, letting a baby nap outdoors might seem like an unusual, if not risky, practice. However, in Denmark, as well as many other Nordic countries, it's a common tradition for mothers to allow their babies to nap in prams outside, regardless of the season. This practice, deeply embedded in Scandinavian parenting, is often cited as one of the reasons for the calm, content nature of Danish babies. Let's delve into why Danish parents swear by outdoor sleeping and the potential benefits this unique cultural habit offers.

Baby sleeping outdoors

The Origin of the Tradition

The tradition of letting babies sleep outdoors is not only practiced in Denmark but is common throughout Scandinavia, including Sweden and Norway. This habit can be traced back several generations, and although its exact origin is hard to pinpoint, it's largely tied to a belief in the health advantages of fresh air. Historically, tuberculosis was once a significant health concern across Europe, and fresh air was considered a natural preventive measure against such respiratory diseases. Over time, this evolved into the practice of outdoor napping for babies.

Climate Considerations and Safety

Despite the cold winters, Danish parents bundle their children up in warm layers and use prams designed to protect from the elements. A typical Danish pram is robust, equipped with adequate insulation, and comes with a cover to shield the child from cold air and moisture. Furthermore, the cribs or prams are often equipped with a baby monitor, allowing parents to keep a constant eye on their sleeping child. Safety is paramount, and this practice is supported by a very low crime rate in Scandinavian countries, which mitigates concerns about leaving a baby unattended outdoors.

Health Benefits of Outdoor Napping

Sleeping outdoors has been linked to numerous health benefits for infants, including:

  • Better Sleep Quality: Babies who nap outdoors tend to sleep longer and more deeply than those who sleep indoors. The natural light helps in regulating the biological clock, while the fresh air is believed to help babies get higher-quality rest.
  • Reduced Exposure to Germs: Indoor air can often contain more pollutants and germs than outdoor air, especially in the winter months when homes are less likely to be ventilated. By sleeping outside, babies may enjoy reduced exposure to germs and the associated risk of infections.
  • Enhanced Cognitive Development: There is some evidence to suggest that outdoor environments stimulate sensory development more than indoor environments. The sounds, sights, and smells of nature may help boost cognitive development in infants.
  • Improved Respiratory Health: The clean, cold air is thought to decrease the risk of coughs and colds. In fact, many parents report fewer respiratory problems in children who sleep outdoors regularly.

Psychological Benefits and Building Independence

Allowing a baby to sleep outdoors is also believed to foster independence and a strong connection with nature from a young age. Danish culture places a high value on self-reliance, and this practice can be seen as an early introduction to these values. Additionally, regular exposure to the natural environment may help alleviate stress and promote a more serene disposition.

Mother with baby

Modern Considerations and Incorporating Outdoor Naps in Different Climates

While Danish babies sleeping outdoors appears beneficial and prosperous in the Scandinavian climate, adapting this practice to different parts of the world requires consideration of local weather patterns and environmental safety. For example, in very hot or polluted areas, the risk might outweigh the benefits. However, parents in temperate climates can consider similar practices by ensuring babies are properly dressed and protected from the elements and pests when attempting outdoor naps.

Incorporating blackout curtains can simulate a darker, more serene environment that mimics the calm of outdoor sleeping. The Sleepout Portable Blackout Curtain can particularly be useful for maintaining a controlled sleeping environment that aids in deeper, more restful sleep.


The tradition of Danish babies napping outdoors offers fascinating insights into a cultural practice that highlights the importance of outdoor time, even from the earliest stages of life. It's a reminder of the potential benefits of fresh air and a connection to nature on health and wellbeing. Whether adapting this practice in other regions or finding ways to bring elements of nature into the routine, the underlying principles can be beneficial to parents and children everywhere.

Mother installing blackout curtains

Embracing some aspects of this open-air philosophy, whether through actual outdoor napping or creating an ideal indoor environment that mirrors the benefits, shows promising advantages for infant development and health.

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