top of page

Leaving babies outside in Sweden

A few year back, during my first visit in Sweden, I saw a baby left outside on a cold winter day.

I stopped.

I looked all around nervously.

The parents were nowhere to be found.

A small baby was left alone on the sidewalk.

He was less than a year old.

Babies outside in Sweden | From "The Sweedes" by Julien S Bourrelle
Leaving babies outside in Sweden | Source "The Swedes" by Julien S. Bourrelle

As I was approaching to see if it was still alive, two Swedish women came out of the coffee shop next door.

One looked at me suspiciously.

She did not smile nor said anything.

She came closer.

She looked at the baby.

She then took the stroller with the baby inside, and walked away.

Without saying anything.

I did not know what to do.

I assumed it was the mother.

I stayed there looking at the woman walking away with the baby.

Did she really leave her baby outside while having a coffee with her friend?

I called my own mother to tell her the story.She smiled and said that my grandmother did the same with her when she was a baby. It was common long ago in Canada to leave babies outside unattended. My grandmother said that it was good for them to breath fresh air. My mother said she would have liked to do the same with my brother and I, but it started to be less safe in Canada at the time I was born and the tradition stopped.

Sweden has traditionally been a safe country with a high level of trust in its homogenous society. It is important for babies to get used to the winter realities from the very start. Where they can get used to enjoying being alone, in the cold and in the dark. This is good as Swedish winters are rather cold and dark. Half of the country is plunged into darkness for several months with temperature below 0C for half the year.

If you lock yourself inside from October to April, life in Sweden with be hard, unhealthy and boring. You need to spend time outside, and it is a good idea to get used to this earlier!

In addition, Scandinavian have a tendency to enjoy some hardship before allowing themselves to enjoy the pleasures of life. That was the only way they could survive in the North before modern times. Babies need to get used to it early. Swedes just leave them outside under freezing temperature!

So, if you see a baby left outside in the cold. This is normal. The mother or father are probably next door. Nothing will happen to it and it will grow up to become a strong Swede.

If you are a foreigner and, like me, make a constant effort to adapt to the society you live in,

you can try doing the same. It may provide you a reason to speak to other mothers and father!

Read more about Swedish traditions and social norms in "The Swedes".


bottom of page