TikTok Can't Stop Talking About This Video Of Norwegian Babies Napping Outside In The Cold
“Another day in Norway, another group of babies left out alone in the cold.”
Everywhere in the world, babies are pretty much the same, but the ways we raise them can be wildly different. Take, for example, a viral TikTok showing Scandinavian babies napping outside in winter weather.
In the video posted by @mrmelk_ (aka Olly Bowman), an “Aussie taking on Europe,” that’s now been watched over 14 million times, Bowman walks down the street, bundled up against the chill of a Norwegian winter. “Another day in Norway, another group of babies left out alone in the cold,” he says, panning to rows of strollers left outside. He marvels. “Look at how many there are!”
He goes on to assure people this isn’t a cruel instance of mass child abandonment or callous parents disregarding the well-being of their little ones. People do this in Norway, he explains, out of the belief that it’s good for their baby’s breathing and helps make them more independent.
Reactions to the TikTok of babies napping alone outside ran emotional gamut.
Shockingly, most of the response to this TikTok appears to be positive, with lots of folks chiming in that this practice is “good for the immune system” or claiming that it makes for “the best naps.” Others appear envious of this way of life, with one TikTok user @morematttalk saying, “I’m envious ... we live in fear of abduction.”
“I dream of knowing my kids are always safe,” @jenny273333 says wistfully.
Others replied with self-deprecating jokes (“I just know I would accidentally walk away with the wrong carriage.”) and some, a minority, did not appear to be pleased at all with the content.
“Let’s not tell the creepers where to find innocent unattended babies,” cautions @brinala85.
“Absolutely freaking not,” decries @bnaynay71, “I don’t care where we are.”
“Safety aside, isn’t it better for a baby’s emotional development if a mother is constantly atuned to it, e.g. like in Africa?” asks @thirdeyeseeyou. We’re pretty sure that even if Africa were one monolithic country parents there would put their baby down to sleep from time to time...
Many other commenters extolled the virtues of outdoor winter napping from personal experience.
Outdoor naps are a thing in Nordic countries
Napping outdoors is, indeed, a cultural norm in places like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Leaving babies outside to sleep while parents are out and about — going out for drinks or running errands — or even while at home is just one of those things you do. A TikTok from 2022 suggests that Danish babies sleeping outside is “not only the cultural norm, but is even recommended by midwives and baby nurses.”
As Bowman reports in his TikTok video, Scandinavian and Nordic parents in the comments claim that babies who sleep outside, even in freezing temperatures, sleep better and have better lungs and immune systems. While there hasn’t been great research to scientifically back these claims, a paper published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health found that parents seem to be quite satisfied with the perceived benefits of allowing their little ones to catch Zs outdoors.
The practice has resulted in misunderstandings in the U.S.
In 1997, Danish mom Anette Sørensen went to jail when she left her 14-month-old daughter, Liv, outside a restaurant where she and the baby’s father grabbed a drink. Though the couple sat near the window with a clear view of the sleeping child, the cops were called and Sørensen was arrested. She spent 36 hours in prison, during which time Liv was placed in foster care.
“I didn’t know where my child was,” Sørensen told The New York Post in 2017. “I don’t think there’s any greater punishment than to have your child taken away from you.”
The pair were reunited four days after the incident, and charges were dropped, but the incident was traumatizing for Sørensen, who wrote a novel based on her experience called A Worm in the Apple. “People live in fear [in the U.S.],” she told The Post. “[But] it’s possible to live another way.”
Even in Nordic countries, the practice is not universal.
In a follow-up video, Bowman asked Norwegian parents about the safety concerns of leaving babies outside and while the practice is, clearly, common, even some Nordic parents have reservations.
“It depends on where you are,” said one man. “Here [in Oslo], yeah. I don’t think anyone would take our babies here if we parked it outside. No problem.”
“I know people do that but we haven’t done it,” replied a mother. “Not in the city center ... people don’t steal the prams when babies are inside of them but still, we don’t want to risk it.”
Others say they’re totally fine leaving their babies outside when they’re in the country or if the errand is really quick — popping into a cafe to get coffee, for example. A couple people also said they felt less comfortable leaving newborns and first babies outside than older and second babies.
Americans probably aren’t going to start leaving their babies outside for naps, but seeing it happen in other countries is an interesting look at the fact that wildly different cultural norms can both raise happy, healthy babies.