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Why do Danes let their babies sleep outside in strollers?

Danish parents often let their babies take daytime naps outdoors in their strollers. The practice can seem odd to visitors, so why is it so popular in the Nordic country?

Why do Danes let their babies sleep outside in strollers?
A stroller parked on a Danish street in 1997. File photo: Linda Kastrup/NF/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark trended on social media this week when a Tiktok post, later also shared on Twitter, showed a series of videos of Danish strollers or prams parked outside on streets.

A number of the clips in the video show empty strollers parked outside kindergartens, but others presumably do indeed have sleeping babies in them.

This should not come as a surprise, given it’s common practice in Denmark to put babies and toddlers down for their naps outdoors, usually in their strollers.

Some social media commenters expressed shock at the video, with a fair few calling it bad parenting.

This week’s Tiktok and Twitter posts are not the first time Danish babies napping outside has caught international attention.

Back in 2013, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported that the “BBC is surprised that Scandinavian children sleep outside” in response to an article by the British broadcaster titled “The babies who nap in sub-zero temperatures”.

“The Scandinavian custom of letting infants sleep outside is causing a stir,” the paper wrote.

Research cited in both the British and Danish articles suggests that there may be benefits to letting children sleep outdoors.

That includes a study from Oulo University in Finland based on a survey of parents.

“Babies clearly slept longer outdoors than indoors,” lead researcher Marjo Tourula told the BBC. Indoor naps lasted between one and two hours while outdoor naps lasted from 1.5 to three hours, the survey found.

“Probably the restriction of movements by clothing could increase the length of sleep, and a cold environment makes swaddling possible without overheating,” Tourula said.

Swedish paediatrician Margareta Blennow told the BBC that the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency had found conflicting results.

“In some studies they found pre-schoolers who spent many hours outside generally – not just for naps – took fewer days off than those who spent most of their time indoors,” she said, adding “in other studies there wasn’t a difference”.

District nurse and author Helen Lyng Hansen told newspaper Ekstra Bladet in 2013 that babies sleeping outside “is a tradition we have in Denmark.”

“It’s part of our culture that we have an idea that it is good for children to sleep outside and get fresh, red cheeks. But there’s no evidence to say that it makes children healthier,” she said.

A page on district nursing advice website says that “there are not yet any scientific studies that can prove that sleeping outdoors makes a difference. But the experiences of parents and experts suggests that children seem to sleep well outside.”

All experts stress that it is important for babies and small children to be appropriately dressed for sleeping outside.

Newborn infants are not put outside to sleep, with most parents waiting until around five to six weeks of age, particularly in colder seasons. Health service advice says infants weighing under 3 kilograms should sleep indoors. Children who have a fever or are otherwise sick should also not sleep outside, according to general advice.

Temperatures below minus 10 degrees Celsius or very misty conditions are not suitable for outside sleeping and naps outside should not last more than around 2 hours.

In Denmark, the standard outfit for children sleeping outside in winter is a woollen sovedragt or full-length suit on top of up to three layers of their regular clothes or pyjamas. They will also wear gloves, a scarf and an elefanthue or non-face-covering balaclava.

A design of blanket from the brand Voksi, referred to as a Voksi pose (“Voksi bag”) is the most popular choice for outdoors sleeping. The blanket can be folded and fastened to enclose the baby and has a hood-shaped part at the top.

The child is usually then placed under an outer blanket or rug and inside the stroller, which has rain covers pulled over if needed.

These layers are gradually reduced during the warmer seasons.

Although images of prams parked on streets are perhaps the most striking feature of the practice, this is not where most Danish babies sleep. Gardens, balconies and kindergartens are far more common places for parents or carers to put young children down for a nap.

That’s not to say a little one sleeping in a pram outside a café or similar public place isn’t unheard of. When this happens, the parent will be sat somewhere in view or use a baby alarm.

That parents nevertheless feel comfortable leaving children to sleep on the street can seem unbelievable to those witnessing the practice for the first time.

“There’s also something about us living in safe Denmark,” retired district nurse and author Sigrid Riise told Ekstra Bladet in 2013.

“We have always dared to leave our children outside, even though we have begun to keep an eye on them more in recent years,” she said.

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Danish police station spends 56,000 kroner on hotdogs

Danish police departments have spent surprisingly large portions of their budget on sausages and bread, according to a newspaper report in the Nordic country.

Danish police station spends 56,000 kroner on hotdogs

The hotdog with rødpølse (“red sausage”), remoulade relish, pickled cucumber and dried fried onions is a Danish classic and arguably the Scandinavian country’s signature street food.

Although the number of pølsevogne (sausage wagons) in Denmark is declining, they appear to be as popular as ever among the country’s law enforcement.

Records requests by newspaper Jyllands-Posten have revealed some eye-popping expenses for ‘opening parties’ for new local police stations or nærpolitistationer

The newspaper found that the Central and West Zealand Police forked over more than 88,000 kroner for a community party to celebrate the opening of a station in Asnæs — a town with a population of 4,158 in 2022, according to Statistics Denmark. 

From that impressive budget, 56,187 went to the rental of a hotdog van.

The amount covered around 2,000 sausages and hotdogs at 28 kroner a pop, Jørgen Bergen Skov, director of Central and West Zealand police, told Jyllands-Posten in a written comment.

The purpose of the event was to make the local community aware of the new police presence in Asnæs, he said.

Meanwhile, North Jutland police spent a combined 64,966 kroner on opening parties in Aars and Brønderslev. This included 12,515 kroner spent on “sweets and lollipops” for both events and 23,686 kroner on a hotdog truck for the Brønderslev event.

“I am surprised that so much money can be spent on the opening of a local police station when you know how tight the economy is in police districts, where every krone must be accounted for,” Heino Kegel, chairman of the Politiforbundet police union, told Jyllands-Posten with regard to Asnæs’s high tab. 

The reported amount seems to be an outlier compared to other police districts, he also said.

A total of 20 new local police stations have been opened across Denmark, with opening events costing over 10,000 in several cases, the newspaper writes. The new stations were provided for in a 2020 political agreement.

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