Baby naps outdoors on a blanket on grass

6 benefits of outdoor napping for babies

I have a confession to make. I forced both of my kids to be outdoor babies. When I say outdoor babies, I mean that they started napping outdoors when they were two weeks old and continued to do so until they were kicked out of their strollers.

This tradition, passed on by generations of Scandinavian parents, was in my DNA, as I raised my two babies in North America. The philosophy behind the parenting choice is simple: fresh air is good for babies. It’s just the way it’s always been. As my mom once said, “Everyone knows that outdoor babies sleep better.”


No matter where your baby naps, it’s important to make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest sleep safety guidelines. And always be near your baby while they nap.

Canadian parents reacted to my outdoor sleeping babies both with horror and with great interest, and it occurs to me that though this practice is second nature for me, it is new to many in North America.

If you’re interested in learning more about outdoor napping for babies, you may want to consult your family doctor first, because although outdoor napping had many benefits for me and for my children, the studies [PDF] from Scandinavia have not been conclusively supportive of the practice.

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Still with me? Here’s why I loved letting my babies nap outside and why it might be something that will work for your family as well:

  1. Babies who nap outdoors have better naps as the colder air helps them sleep longer.
  2. Babies who nap outdoors may have fewer colds. Spending more time outdoors decreases exposure to germs in enclosed spaces. (See more on that via the BBC: The real reasons germs spread around.)
  3. Babies who nap outdoors can nap everywhere … even when they get older.
  4. Babies who nap outdoors are great to take with you on adventures like cross country skiing, hiking trips, canoe trips, snowshoeing trips, and traveling adventures.
  5. Babies who nap outdoors have more exposure to nature and get to look at swaying branches or the sky while they are falling asleep, which is known to have a calming effect on them, according to Norwegian Pediatrician Gro Nylander (check out her book, Becoming A Mother).
  6. Babies who nap outdoors have parents who spend lots of time outdoors and that helps keep the adults in the family physically active and supports mental health. This creates good habits and role-models behaviour you’ll want your kids to adopt when they’re older.

Whether you decide to give your baby outdoor naps, or if you just want to spend more time outside with your baby this winter, it’s important that you dress them properly. So be sure to read my 9 tips for dressing babies for winter.

11 responses to “6 benefits of outdoor napping for babies

  1. My grand daughter’s paternal grandparents are Eastern European and advocates of outdoor naps. My concern is that her parents live in L.A. near Laurel Canyon Drive (it’s immediately behind their back fence) and the quality of the air is dreadful, with air pollution and car fumes. Also, she often has mosquito bites and one time I found a spider crawling on her because they don’t use any kind of netting over her crib. Common sense should still come into this practice, shouldn’t it?

  2. I wish I could do this but worry too much about bears and cougars. I feel like I could maybe make it work if I sat beside my baby with a book but still I get the shivers just thinking of a cougar watching and waiting for me to go inside for a glass of water.

  3. I walked my winter baby for afternoon naps in NYC several days a week. Slept beautifully all bundled up. However, come warmer weather, he would not sleep in the stroller without bundling. He wouldn’t even sleep on my parents’ boat in the gentle lake waves. Come fall and bundling, he would finally sleep again in the stroller.

  4. What is protocol for baby napping outdoors in the summer? We always hear of the benefits of cold air but do summer babies also nap outdoors or do they nap inside in air conditioning? Also at what ages do they start outdoor naps?

    1. Hi Kate,
      As I’m sure you know babies should not be in direct sunshine from 0-6 m and their skin is sensitive to sun screen it is my opinion it might be helpful to buy a protective screen for the stroller that protects against the sun but also bugs. Do not use a blanket as shade against the sun as this will block the air flow and may overheat the baby.
      In the summer it also very important to not overdress the baby as babies can be easyily overheated. When you are putting the baby for napping make sure you never to put the stroller in direct sun light and make sure the stroller is in the shade, under a tree is good. Limit outdoor napping on very hot days.Here is also a post about babies napping outdoors…trees.html

      1. We live on a sail boat and babywear. If our baby doesn’t sleep in a carrier/wrap, he usually sleeps in the shade on a beach or on a rolling boat, with hatches open as often as possible. As we are currently in the Caribbean, we can’t really limit outdoor napping in warm or hot weather, and since we have no air conditioning, it’s often warmer on our boat than outside, so outside naps in the shade are cooler. When we lived in the UK we often had our two older children sleep in carriers when out and about, it was especially lovely in cold weather.

  5. Such a great article. One thing is very important that the baby wouldn’t get cold. So that’s why i use a special sleeping bag. It’s from and it’s from merino wool. So now i know my baby will be warm if sleeps outside :)

  6. While I keep my windows open in the Winter as I sleep And think it is wonderful to breathe the fresh air I would not leave a baby sleeping outside where I live because we have many bears around in the woods where I live. And as they have taken people’s dogs I assume they could also take a child a baby. Even in my fenced in backyard where it is relatively safe From potential kidnappersthat would be one Big problem Issue with the bears. Which I love but not enough to sacrifice a baby to them.

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