Sunday, February 20, 2011

Leave the Baby Outside, Ma'am.

Back in DC, Neil was under the impression that our stroller was really big. He thought it was also really fancy and kind of snooty. He was a little bit right. We have the Uppa Baby. Not THE most expensive or THE biggest, but it's a nice size and a good quality stroller. (I over-researched this particular purchase for sure.)

Moving to Europe, we were pretty sure that most things about us would be super sized. We are, after all, Americans. For the most part, we were right. The paper towels we brought with us are about 2 inches too long to fit on the built-in paper towel holder in our kitchen, our bathroom is about half the size of our previous bathroom, milk is sold in containers the size of American half & half containers, our cookie sheet would have to be sliced in half to fit in our oven, even the heads of lettuce here are smaller. But, not strollers.

Strollers in Denmark are the size of small cars. They are humongous- at least twice as big and twice as fancy as our stroller. Perhaps because of their size, but perhaps not, it is common practice to leave the strollers or prams outside with sleeping children in them when parents shop or dine. Walk around Copenhagen on any given day and you'll come across dozens of strollers on sidewalks. These strollers cost upwards of $1,000 and contain peoples' precious children, but they are rarely locked up. Some are obviously empty, but the ones that are all bundled up almost always contain a napping baby or toddler. The Danes think that sleeping outside is good for the babies and their strollers wouldn't fit in whatever shop or restaurant their parents were going to anyways.

Apparently in the last 30 years, or so, there have been three kidnappings in Denmark. One resulted in a missing child who was never returned. The other two occured when hapless bike theives mistakenly took bikes with passenger carts attached that had children napping in them. The first asked the child where he lived and dropped him and the bike off at home. The second took the child to a nearby home and left it on the doorstep. People don't steal kids in Denmark.

Being American, leaving Riley outside in the cold asleep in his stroller goes against all of my programming. I am worried about many things in this scenario: What if someone takes him? What if he wakes up and cries and I don't hear him because I am inside? What if he is cold? What if someone comes and smokes near him? And also culturally programmed in to me is the "What if Child Protective Services takes him away from me?" question.

I learned my second week in Denmark that Danish moms also worry about their babies waking up and needing them. For this reason they have "baby alarms" in the prams. As best I can tell, a baby alarm is a battery operated monitor. Some of them are super-small and high-tech. As for concerns about cold babies, the prams come with many many layers of warmth. It's like wrapping your baby in a high-tech coccoon of protection. They are not only insulated and waterproof, but I saw a label on one saying it's rated to protect from sun as well as SPF 50 sunscreen.

So now the question you've all been asking, have we left Riley outside in his small, non-insulated American stroller? Before I answer that, I would like to mention that we have a super-cool sleeping bag thing for Riley that's designed for all inclement weather. We also have a rain cover for his stroller. He seems to be more comfortable in his stroller out in the cold than he is in his crib at home.

And now, the answer: Yes. I did it. I left Riley outside, asleep, in the rain, while I had coffee with new friends. It should be noted that I could see him in the window the whole time, he had a rain cover on, it was only sprinkling, and because I was with other foreigners who are not entirely comfortable with this practice, our strollers were chained together with a bike lock and we had a baby alarm on.

More recently, Neil and I left Riley outside at a little basement cafe and sat by the window watching him the whole time. It still feels very counter to my nature and way too trusting to leave him outside as part of regular practice. It even challenges me to leave the stroller outside without him in it. But we do that very often. Just today we left it outside where you board the canal boat tour for our entire hour-long boat ride. Certainly in the US, it would have been gone on our return. Not in Copenhagen. At the conclusion of the tour it was right where we'd left it. Besides, who would want it here anyways when there are all those fancier strollers for the taking.
Confession: I may not feel entirely comfortable with leaving babies around unattended in their strollers, but I think the Danes are right, Riley naps very well with a little fresh air - even really cold fresh air.
Riley sleeping in his stroller on a warm day in Copenhagen. I did NOT leave him here.


  1. This practice of leaving your child outside in the stroller is quite common where Eric grew up in Switzerland. I've always thought it's a good thing that Eric has a very strong resemblance to his mother. ;-)

    On another note, what's the changing table situation like in Danish cafes and restaurants?

  2. Hey Erin, I haven't really explored changing tables in restaurants yet. I go to cafes on occasion but haven't needed to change Riley yet. I am betting some places have them, but they may not be as ubiquitous as they are in the US.

  3. There have been more cases of baby-kidnapping than that. The last one was a "mentally disabled" (police description), man moving two prams down the block. It just is not reported and when stories like this happen, it is quickly buried under the news cycle.
    Also, in the winter, it is not unheard of for small animals to attack the babies while they sleep outside their family's house.

    Sure, it is rare that something happens but it is not as rare as everyone says.

  4. adventuresandjapes

    Dont just swing stuff like that in the out.

    Think the worst case we had the last 50 years of animals attacking sleeping babies was a cat who jumped a stoiler and started too sleep. The cat paniced when the mom paniced and tried to push it out.

    But you are right there have been some cases of ppl moving prams 1 block or two. They are rare, and not done to do any harm to the babies but scare the parrents.

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  12. How's the Child Protective Services in Denmark?
    In Norway the state seems to remove children from parents for trivial reasons. Here is a video with a high profile Barnevernet case from Norway:

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