Winter Weather

Here's The Truth Behind That Old Wives' Tale About Cold Air Being Good For Babies

In some parts of the world babies are known to nap in the freezing cold.

by Lindsay E. Mack
Originally Published: 

For plenty of parents, keeping your little one protected from chilly temperatures is second nature. But is cold air good for babies, actually? Some parents start acclimating their youngsters to wintery temps from a very young age.

There's even a tradition of Nordic parents permitting babies to nap outside in freezing temps, as reported by the BBC. It's seen as a healthy way for the little ones to nap longer, and the babies are of course well-bundled against the subzero temperatures. But does this mean most all babies would benefit from exposure to cold air? "The BBC article was interesting, but I hesitate to generalize the results. I have not found research touting the positive effects of cold air exposure on infants," pediatrician Tiff Jumaily M.D. tells Romper. For the most part, there does not appear to be a great deal of information on this topic. "This is a very interesting report by BBC and very a unique practice to have a young infant sleep outside in the cold with warm clothing bundle. After brief literature search, I did not find any peer review paper suggesting that this practice is beneficial," pediatrician Dr. Powen Hsueh, M.D., tells Romper.

However, this isn't to say that the parents who follow the tradition of letting babies sleep outside are doing anything wrong. "The study focused specifically on babies raised in Nordic countries. These infants might be genetically tolerant to cooler temperatures," says Dr. Jumaily. And to be fair, the parents who let babies nap outside in the cold often include safety measures such as thermometers, sleeping bags, or even insulated strollers, according to an Insider article.

Still, for the most part, the agreed-upon ideal temperature for babies is much closer to regular room temp. "As a pediatrician, the standard recommendation to parents is that the child to should remain in a comfortable ambient temperature at all times (between 68-72 F) because both heat and cold stress can often do harm to a young infant," says Dr. Hsueh. "Moreover, younger children have poor ability to thermal regulate because they have less body fat." Dr. Jumaily agrees that indoor temps above 65 degrees are the ideal for infants. In other words, don't feel pressure to have your baby sleep outside like Nordic kids if that's not your own family's tradition.

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This doesn't mean you have to keep the baby stowed away inside for all of the autumn and winter months, either. "It is important for babies and their families to have some fresh air and sunshine each day, especially as the days get shorter. I recommend bundling the little one up and limiting the time spent outside. It is important that parents check the temperature of their baby's exposed skin and ensure that it remains pink and warm to touch," says Dr. Jumaily. There are plenty of different ways for your baby to safely enjoy colder temps, whether you're in Norway or North America.


Dr. Powen Hsueh, a pediatrician at Weed Army Community Hospital

Pediatrician Tiff Jumaily MD, of Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine Studio City

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