Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Letting the baby sleep outside

One of the things that my mother worried about when she came to visit me in California, while I was 36 weeks pregnant, was where the baby would nap. She was worried that the balcony was too noisy and the little court yard only had a small window that I couldn't see out from the living room. I said I would think about it and try and solve that. Not at one moment did I question that the baby would be napping outside like a proper Scandinavian baby. When Zoe was born I forgot she was Danish and let her nap in the bassinet inside, next to our bed or the bassinet in the living room or, as happens with most newborns, on top of my chest. We went to Stockholm when she was only 3 1/2 weeks old and for my 3 months maternity leave here, she napped in her lie-flat pram when I was taking my daily walks, just as all other Scandinavian babies. Returning to the US I never tried to recreate the outdoor napping, mainly because it was too hot in Southern California and it was too difficult to for her to actually fall asleep outside.

In fact, I never thought much about the cultural differences between baby napping before I read this blog post about letting your baby sleep outdoors (or Americans' reluctancy to do so). I have thought a lot about other cultural differences such as lie-flat sleeping vs. car seat sleeping (I am still convinced that Americans are breeding a generation of people with serious back problems when they get older) and baby-carrying (as in a soft-structured carrier or wrap) vs. logging your baby around in a car seat and stroller. But for some reason in the US I simply adopted the US standard of letting the baby nap in her crib, in her room.

So when we got back to Stockholm this time, I was really happy to see that Zoe has not only started liking her stroller more, or should I say, at all, she also falls asleep in it and likes to snuggle up inside her little foot muff (which is its proper name, but a complete misnomer since this covers her up to her ears), lying flat in her stroller and nap. I usually go to a cafe and leave her sleeping outside so she doesn't get to hot from all the clothes and today she slept a record of 2 hours and 15 minutes. The blog post above wonders how Scandinavians can just leave their babies outside and having experienced motherhood from both worlds I see where she is coming from. I would never leave my baby outside in the US, simply because infrastructures such as buildings, paths, roads and pavements are bigger, there is more space between window and entrance, and there is no appropriate place to put a stroller. Here in Stockholm on the other hand I was able to place the stroller 4 inches from the window, sit down about two meters from the window, watching if Zoe's feet moved. The atmosphere is one of friendliness, there are 100 of parents out and about, dads and moms, and there is always someone with an acknowledging smile. There is a sense of 'us' not 'me and them' and I have the confidence that if Zoe cried and I didn't hear her, someone would pop in and ask whose baby it was. As for the blogger's rather unimaginative question to how to dress the baby for sleeping in the cold weather I just have to ask if she has never been out herself in cold weather? Clothing my dear, clothing and some more clothing.

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