Would you put your baby outside to sleep?

Jessica Rowe's post has attracted attention here and overseas.
Jessica Rowe's post has attracted attention here and overseas. Photo: Instagram/jessrowe

When television personality Jessica Rowe was holidaying in Iceland last week she noticed something that caught her eye - babies sleeping in prams outside cafes and restaurants.

The self confessed 'helicopter parent' was fascinated and posted a photo on Instagram to share with her followers.  

"For a helicopter parent like me this makes me break out into a sweat! But all over Reykjavik families leave their babies outside cafes, shops etc... I'm told 'fresh air is good for them'," the caption posted with the photo reads. 

Jessica Rowe is a mum of two.
Jessica Rowe is a mum of two. Photo: Supplied

While Rowe's Instagram followers in Australia might have been surprised by the photo, the parenting practice is not new.

For generations parents in Nordic countries have routinely put their babies and young children outside to sleep during the day, even when the temperatures fall well below zero.

The theory behind outdoor napping is that children exposed to fresh air are less likely to catch coughs and colds than those who spend their day indoors around other people.

According to a 2008 study of outdoor sleeping, many parents also believe their children sleep better and for longer out in the open.

"Allowing children to sleep outdoors in the winter was considered a common practice and was taken for granted," the research findings state. 

"It usually began when the child was two weeks old, and was carried out once a day. Children took longer naps outdoors compared with naps taken indoors.

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"Outdoor temperatures ranged between -27 and +5°C.

"Parents' experiences were mainly positive and most parents had not faced potentially dangerous situations."

In 2013, mother of three Lisa Mardon told the BBC her children had their day sleeps outside from when they were born.

"I think it's good for them to be in the fresh air as soon as possible," she said.

"Especially in the winter when there's lots of diseases going around ... the kids seem healthier."

Despite the long history behind the tradition, many of Rowe's followers said they could not imagine leaving their babies to sleep outside.

"Forget the temperatures, my fear would be abductions," one woman wrote.

"Safety/cold issues aside, what if the baby gets distressed/upset, are they left to cry? Not judging, it's just intriguing how different our cultures are!" commented another.

Others were quick to defend the way children are raised in Iceland and other Nordic countries.

"I just moved here a month ago from London and am already embracing the safety of this place. Whilst nowhere is ever going to be 100 per cent safe, I'm going with it," one of Rowe's followers wrote. 

"This tradition has happened for centuries with no issues ... It will only become an issue if people come here and make it one. Kids as young as 5/6 walk to school, ride their bikes around neighbourhoods and go round to their friends houses or to the parks, with no adult escorting them."

Rowe herself was also keen to point out she meant no disrespect by the observation.

"I was in no way criticising ... The pic I took was meant to be an observation of a tradition which a number of locals had explained to me. And again apologies if it offended you in any way ... I had a wonderful time in Iceland."

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