5 Reasons Pushchair Naps Are Best
1. Babies sleep longer when they are outside
Their movements are partially restricted in their sleeping bags and snowsuits. I also believe that because of the general background noise, they are less inclined to wake at the slightest sound. It is the cultural norm for babies, toddlers, and young children to nap outdoors in many countries, as indeed it was here just a generation ago. My own family members in New Zealand were very supportive. My Aunt who had three children including twins was a great believer in al fresco naps, as were a lot of local neighbours in our village who remembered it from when they were raising their own babies. It seems we are sadly losing this lovely method of daytime rest for babies.
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. It’s much healthier for you and your baby
Walking with a sleeping baby is very relaxing. Daily walks are essential for your physical and emotional health in those first few years. Followers of the Gina Ford method will be all too aware of the need for blackout blinds and silence, but really it’s so much more natural for babies to be rocked to sleep under the trees and wake to the sound of birdsong. Babies at Paddock Cottage sleep well, rarely cry when they are tucked in for a nap or when they wake, and several ask for a pushchair when they feel tired. Sleep is so important for babies and young children right up until the age of three of beyond. Naps are absolutely essential for children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. Numerous studies point towards quality sleep playing a significant part in brain development in children.
4. It really works
I have rocked a LOT of babies to sleep and know from experience that is it the kindest, gentlest way to encourage healthy nap routines. For many children, naptime can be a very stressful time, especially in big nurseries so having positive sleep associations at an early age can lead to a lifetime of good sleep habits. All the children I look after sleep so well outdoors, even in the cold weather. We check them every five to ten minutes and every baby that we lift from their sleeping bag cocoon is toasty warn and dozy when they wake.
5. If your baby can sleep outside, they can sleep anywhere
Training a baby to sleep in a dark silent room seems so alien to me, so unnatural. If instead children are taught that gently drifting off watching the trees is a pleasant feeling, they develop excellent sleep associations which we can draw on as adults. 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. As a child my bedroom was never darkened with heavy curtains. I remember the sun streaming in, the dawn chorus in summer and the noises of owls and foxes. To this day I am an excellent sleeper (and daytime napper if I get a chance!) which is an excellent skill to master.
How we do it at Paddock Cottage
When I opened Paddock Cottage in Spring 2016 it seemed like an obvious step for me to offer outdoor sleeping as part of our day. I’ve always loved the outdoors and so have my own children, who always napped outside. They always slept well and were very healthy. I’m a Forest School practitioner and we follow a lot of these principles through our play and discovery. It seemed a natural next step for the babies to sleep outdoors too. I invested in some very good quality pushchairs which lay totally flat, some high quality sleeping bags and lots of thermal blankets.
At nap time we dress the children in warm, comfortable clothes. No overcoats or shoes, just fleeces and warm socks. They are then strapped into the pushchairs. Camping principals apply, so babies either lie on a sheepskin or several layers of folded fleece blanket. Then they are zipped into a thermal sleeping bag with extra blankets and a hat if it is very cold.
Loose, natural fibres and a light blanket or large muslin if very hot. They are parked just outside the kitchen window in the shade and checked every five to ten minutes. When they wake, usually they watch the trees or sky for a bit first. I believe this is important processing time. They are very still and watchful. At the first sound of words or a shout they are scooped up for stories, cuddles and a snack indoors.
They is lots of information out there about the importance of sleep and the benefits of outdoor sleeping however, this is one of my favourite collections of personal experiences on the subject.