There’s a myth that healthy newborn babies have to stay inside for a certain period of time. Don’t listen to it! It’s safe for babies to be outside very soon after they’re born, as long as there are no other issues (or doctors advice) that would prevent this.
Spending time outside is healthy for everyone, including babies and children. As long as they’re dressed in the right clothes and aren’t too hot or cold! This goes for winter and summer. Did you know that babies in Norway, Denmark and other Nordic and Scandinavian countries are frequently left to take naps outside, even in below freezing temperatures? It’s true, Google it! It sounds fairly shocking, but after reading more, I totally get it.
I feel like it’s easy to overthink and over-fuss with babies when sometimes, it just takes some common sense. We’ve written an article on how to protect your baby’s skin in the sun - check it out here if you haven’t already. But although it’s important to protect your baby from getting too hot, or too much sun, it doesn’t mean you should cocoon them in the house. This time I wanted to focus on all the reasons being outdoors in nature this summer is good for your baby!
The outdoors is the best source of Vitamin D
Our bodies make vitamin D when they’re exposed to sunlight. “In the UK, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation in winter (October to early March) for our skin to be able to make vitamin D. “ - NHS
We need vitamin D to enable us to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to bones becoming weaker and in children can lead to rickets. The NHS also recommends breastfed babies are given vitamin D supplements from birth - even if the mother is taking vitamin D supplements.
For the first six months, it’s advised to shade your baby from the sun rather than use sunscreen. This is because their skin is sensitive to many of the added chemicals and ingredients in suncream. It’s also advised that babies under the age of 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight. Although it’s very important to protect your baby’s skin from getting burned with the right clothes, shade and protection - this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be outside!
For more advice on sun protection check out our article, and refer to the NHS guidelines.
It could help develop their immune system
Being exposed to natural microbes as well as pollen could help to develop their immune system. Allergies are on the rise amongst children. The theory gaining traction thanks to recent scientific studies is that early exposure to common allergens (like pet hair, for example) helps create an immunity.
Over-cleanliness is also thought to adversely affect babies, children and adults. This is because many household cleaning products kill many natural microbes and non-harmful bacteria, as well as harmful bacteria and germs. Exposure to some germs can help our immune system develop. Even childhood leukaemia has been linked to reduced exposure to germs in early life.
It has calming benefits
I mentioned the Danish practice of babies sleeping outside in some Nordic and Scandinavian countries. Well, they’re certain that napping outside helps to give their baby a more restful night’s sleep! I don’t know if there’s a study that proves this - but we already have some knowledge on the psychological benefits of spending time outside in nature. Some doctors on the NHS in Scotland and the UK now giving ‘nature prescriptions’ to patients. In some areas of the UK, surfing is even being prescribed!
Humans never evolved to spend most of our time indoors, so I can see why we’re suffering for our desk-bound, inner-city or suburban lives. Whilst I’m not about to strap my babies to my back and forage for wild herbs in the woods, I’m totally on board with leaving the house for a dose of nature and fresh air. Aaaaaaand breathe!
What’s good for mum, is good for the baby!
Obviously, this doesn’t literally apply to everything (like wine - that’s just for mummy!). But I’m a huge advocate for keeping mum happy too. Having a newborn is a lot of work and it’s easy to let previously enjoyed activities fade into the background. But if you’re feeling happy and relaxed, your baby can pick up on this.
As anyone who’s had a baby knows, it’s easy to end up spending a whole day indoors! Sometimes I just forced myself out the door. Despite this, getting outside always made a big difference in how positive and relaxed I was feeling.
Ideas for getting outdoors
It’s all well and good to be told to get outdoors, but what does that actually mean? Am I talking running through the hills aka The Sound of Music, or just popping out for a walk around the block?
Well, obviously the former sounds nice, but it’s not exactly practical. So, how else can we spend more time outdoors?
- Find your nearest local park and try to get there at least twice a week
- If you have a garden, make it an attractive space you’d be happy to spend more time in.
- If the weather is warmer, take your meals outside whenever you can!
- Arrange to meet up with other mums and go for a walk instead of just a coffee (or both).
- If the shops are walkable distance, consider taking a stroller instead of driving.
If all else fails, a walk around the block or up the street is absolutely perfect and completely underrated!