It is generally good for children, even the really little ones, to be outdoors. But there are risks with it, especially one in particular. We will return to it later on, let’s start with the positive.
Melatonin is a hormone released in the brain when we sleep or are in the dark for a long time. It’s the body’s own sleeping pills. Living in daylight stops production. That’s why it is very helpful for a good night’s sleep to be out a lot of daytime. This makes our bodies clearly distinguish between night and day and our night’s sleep improves.
Being outdoors is also better for a much less problematic sleep: day sleep (also called naps).
Research has shown that young children sleeping outdoors sleep longer than children sleeping indoors. A warm baby carriage is safe for young children to lie in. Fresh air feels good and if someone walks with the carriage so it rocks a little bit … Hours pass. Zzz.
Variation is obviously also good for a child. To go into a new environment, with all the new sounds, new smells, new things to look at. All parents have experienced restless babies tired of their rattle and baby gym. Tree, house, dogs, birds, sky, clouds. A little newness is all that is needed to turn the mood around.
But there are risks.
One is the sun. Small children have very delicate skin and should not stay long with their bare skin in direct sunshine. They should have clothes to cover them and sunscreen. Even dark-skinned children should be protected from sunshine. One common misunderstanding is that dark-skinned people cannot get skin cancer or skin damage caused by the sun. Skin with more pigment is not burned as easily by the sun, but can still be damaged and skin cancer is a risk.
Baby carriages should not stand in direct sunlight. Although the child is protected by a piece of cloth, it can become very warm underneath.
However, this time of year, tanning is not a problem. The biggest problem is the cold. In Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries it is common for children to sleep outdoors even during winter. One risk is that you dress your baby too warmly. Infants have difficulty in regulating their own heat. That’s why you should periodically check your child’s temperature. You can feel if they are cold or sweaty on the neck.
The medical community usually recommends that children do not sleep outdoors when it is colder than 10 degrees below 0 Celsius (A report from Finland showed that many parents let their children sleep in temperatures up to negative 30 degrees!).
One problem that research has shown is that children who lie and sleep in a carriage in the cold cool down very slowly and therefore do not respond to it. One danger is that they are getting too cold without giving away any warning signs, they might not wake up and cry. They may get cold damage or get sick without anyone noticing.
Here you can read what you can do to prevent your baby from getting too cold outdoors.