Sleeping soundly outside

Infants need a lot of sleep, and their first months are characterized by, among other things, precious naps. Here in Iceland, it’s not uncommon for children to sleep outdoors in their baby carriages, even in winter.

People all over the world have been surprised by this peculiar tradition that has been a part of Icelandic culture for generations. The tradition dates back to ancient times, when Icelanders lived in cramped houses in poor conditions. Back then, children were put outside to nap in the clean air. This was believed to reduce the chances of children becoming ill and thus to have a positive effect on their health.

Anna Eðvaldsdóttir, also known as Midwife Anna, is in her own words “a midwife with all my heart and soul”. She has worked as a midwife and gone on housecalls since 1994 and says that she hopes she never has to quit. Her work is her joy in life, and she has delivered over 1500 children as of this writing.

Anna believes that breathing in clean air is good for your health. “We can feel it ourselves when we take a walk, how nice it is to get out into the fresh and clean air.”

In winter, however, conditions can arise that are not considered optimal for outdoor napping.

“It’s when the weather has been still with little to no wind for a few days, two to seven degrees below zero, the studded tires have been put on the cars and the particle pollution level is very high.” Anna says it’s important to assess the situation carefully before putting children outside for a nap. If the particle pollution levels are high, she doesn’t recommend taking children outside at all, not even for a walk. It can be assumed that in ancient times, when the tradition was created, this problem did not exist. Back then, there weren’t a lot of diesel-powered vehicles, studded tires and paved roads.

According to Anna, people commonly make the mistake to look for calm weather when putting children outside for a nap. The most important thing is to ensure airflow through the baby carriage, which can be difficult in still weather. Anna also recommends positioning the carriage so that the wind blows through it from the side. Another common mistake is to cover the opening of the carriage with a blanket or something similar, which restricts airflow.

Keeping these factors in mind, it is safe to put the children outside for a nap. It is also important to dress the children according to the weather.

For the innermost layer, Anna recommends light wool garments: a onesie, tights and a long-sleeved shirt. Anna does not recommend cotton for the innermost layer, as it absorbs moisture, which increases the risk of heat loss. Children tend to sweat in the baby carriage; if their clothes don’t breathe properly and get wet easily, then they can get cold. It’s good to use a snood over the head, as it covers both the head and the neck well.

It is also important to not dress the children too well. During winter, many people choose to have bunting bags in their baby carriages, so there is no need to dress the children in cold-weather overalls over the woolly clothes. In that case, Anna recommends dressing the children in a light fleece suit over the wool.