Calm Your Baby!

In a country proud of its freedom of expression, perhaps it is thought that a modern American baby would not enjoy being tightly wrapped, hence limiting his/her freedom of movement? or would he?
Giuditta Tornetta

On a recent Saturday, the phone rang and as I said hello, a very tired voice whispered "I am looking for a post-partum doula." In the background I could hear a baby waling. I asked her if everything was ok and she told me that her son Josh, who was three weeks old, had been crying for two and a half hours. I asked her if she thought he was sick, and she told me that the doctor had given her some drops for colic, but that Josh always cried that much before she could calm him down. When I inquired how long he would sleep at each sitting, she said "Sometimes he sleeps for one whole hour!" I told her I would come over right away and we'd continue the interview in person. When I walked into her home I found a sweet, tired and disheveled woman with deep circles around her eyes, and a crying baby in her arms. My heart went out to her. I asked if I could hold the baby while we spoke.

Dana handed Josh to me, and as I settled on the couch, I swaddled him tightly into a little burrito, then shushed him and rocked him. He fell asleep within a few minutes. Mom was stunned, "How did you do that?" she asked. "Have you ever swaddled him?" "No," she responded, "I thought that would be too confining. He likes to suck on his fist."

The practice of swaddling babies and hiring wet-nurses to take care of them was widely criticized in the 18th century. Together, with our Declaration of Independence, we began throwing away some of our early traditions. Swaddling is the ancient art of snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket for warmth and security. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis suggest swaddling helps babies sleep better.

Parents would then be less likely to put small babies into the more risky stomach-sleeping position. Dr Claudia Gerard, who led the research said: "Now we have scientific evidence to support the age-old belief that swaddled infants sleep better than unswaddled ones." Dr Harvey Karp, renowned pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, tells us that the initial 12 weeks of a baby's life could be viewed as the "forth trimester," meaning that human infants are born somewhat prematurely and need the reassurance of the warm womb, which is what swaddling imitates.

Nearly all cultures across the globe have created a swaddling contraption to carry their infant. Whether is the Native American papoose, or the slings used by African mothers, infants have been bundled tightly and kept close to the mother's body for centuries.

How it is done

  • Lay a square, stretchy blanket on a flat surface in a diamond shape. Now fold down the top-right corner about 6 inches.
  • Place your baby on his back with neck and shoulders on the fold.
  • Pull the corner near your baby's right hand across his body, and tuck the leading edge under his back on the left side under the arm.
  • Pull the bottom corner up over the baby's left shoulder tucking the blanket (and his left arm) tightly in the left back.
  • Bring the left side of the fold down right under the baby's chin and then pull the last corner all the way around the baby tucking it in his left side.

    Basically, you have made a little love burrito! If this is too confusing, ask a doula, a grandma, a lactation consultant or a fellow mom to show you how it's done.

    After working with Dana and Josh for about one week, I witnessed a miracle. Mom had just come back from the beauty parlor. She had made herself beautiful for her baby, with a pretty new hairdo. Josh, who was now sleeping three to four hours at night, was tightly bundled checking out the world with open eyes. I handed him to Dana, and when mom and baby's eyes met, a wave of love erupted, enveloped and engulfed them. It was true love at first sight, materialized and incarnate. I left them resting, laying next to each other, lost in a magical embrace. Finally settled, they were able to discover one another.

    Babies love to be swaddled and held closely. We cannot spoil an infant by holding him or her too much. Mommies need their rest and peace of mind, as well. In the early months of child's life interdependence is more important than independence.

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