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A parenting technique for infants.

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The Swaddling Dilemma

  • Feb 26, 2010

Most parents say that swaddling helps their babies get to sleep, stay asleep, and get comforted quickly, especially when they are newborns. My problem with this is that the focus is on getting the baby to shut up, settle, be quiet in  his/her crib, on his own.

Does this reminds you of an old adage, seen but not heard . A baby will fall asleep in mom’s arms just as quickly.  A baby will sleep on dad’s chest just as sweetly, without needing to feel like he is back in the womb.  We are too quick to try to get our newborn to stop crying, or communicating. Have you ever thought about how crying for a baby is really talking? Babies speak one language we don’t quite understand right away, so we quickly respond by shushing, telling the baby “don’t cry,” and we are told that if we turn on vacuum cleaners or hairdryers we’ll see the baby’s gaze switch and they will quiet down. Yes, indeed that works, but what about allowing the baby to talk?  Now I don’t mean we should let a baby cry on his/her own, but have you heard how after a few weeks a mom will hear a baby cry and say, “I know that cry, he is hungry.  Or he needs to be changed. “  Mom’s eventually learn their babies language. So let’s change our perception from the baby is crying to the baby is talking, and let’s ask the baby what he/she needs as we offer, food, comfort, cuddle, empathy and love.

This being said one of the reasons why the swaddling methods, as well as the shushing methods, have come to the forefront is because those are tools we should use when our baby cry is making a mom go deeper into postpartum depression, or is making the baby being at risk of being miss-handled by a frustrated parent.   There is no doubt there are babies out there that do benefit from swaddling, shusshing, and swinging.  Moms should try to pacify their little one with the breast first, talking, singing, holding loving, and if all else fails then use this great tool. So, if you feel like you need a break or you will go mad, PLEASE SWADDLE your baby and turn on the vacuum cleaner.  Or better call a postpartum doula and go for a walk.  Don’t feel bad if you find yourself frustrated especially from the lack of sleep.  We all felt that way, and the quieting techniques have grown from the empathy felt by some experts for new moms.  But these techniques have become the norm, the crutch nearly used daily, instead of being the exception, the tool used in only special occasions.

So if you can, and I am only asking to put aside a few months of your life for this: hold your baby, go ahead it is O.K. you are not going to spoil her, in fact you might just teach her that what she says counts and you will listen.

“If your only goal were to get your baby to sleep through the night, then leaving him to cry would accomplish that goal. The problem is that the reason the baby stops crying and sleeps is that he becomes so discouraged he gives up trying to signal that he needs help. In effect, he has learned to sleep through the night……… out of despair rather than contentment.” ~ Dr. Martha Heineman Pieper, Author of Smart Love

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July 07, 2011
Also, keep in mind temperature control in the room 68-72 degrees is optimal with the air conditioner on low.
February 10, 2011
I feel strange partly disagreeing to this.

I do agree that parents (both mothers and fathers, btw) often learn the languages of the infants, and that focusing on communication is very important in these first few months.  However, I think that swaddling and other quieting techniques can be an important part of that communication which, after all, is by definition a two-way street.

When our second child was born, we had somewhat expected trouble.  He had been active in the womb at night and far less active during the day.  We knew his cycle was turned around.  My wife tried the "listening" approach for a few days and realized that wasn't going to work-- the problem was that he wanted to sleep during the day and stay up all night.  In the end with help of grandparents we did as follows:

1) Set him down to sleep during the day in direct sunshine coming in through the closed window (no danger of sunburn, but lots and lots of sunlight).

2)  Quieting techniques used aggressively at night when the cries were about requests for interaction, but not neglecting feeding at night, etc.

Two days later, the cycle was set aright.  He'd be more active during the day, and wake up at night only when he needed something.

The focus should be on actual dialog between parents and infant.  Quieting techniques and even being slower to respond to needs at night* can be a useful part of that dialog but ideally they are not used as a tool of last resort to protect the sanity of the parents, but rather as a more routine part of the dialog itself, a dialog whose ultimate purpose is to try to help the child get what he/she needs/wants.

* Children do wake up cry briefly, and go back to sleep all the time.  Waiting to see if the child is clearly all the way awake before responding seems better than waking the child up to ask what's wrong (when what is wrong may well be "I'm tired!" or even "I was waking up!")........  It also gently encourages the movement of nocturnal needs to daytime hours.
March 01, 2010
Wow...interesting quote. I never thought of it that way before. Mine are raised or halfway there...but it may be grand-parenting time before too long. Good stuff to keep in mind. (Plus, grandparents are SUPPOSED to spoil).
March 02, 2010
I know can't wait to be a grandma too. .
February 26, 2010
I completely agree! What a great review :) I always followed my instincts as a mother instead of listening to so called 'experts' and even other parents when it comes to swaddling and sleeping through the night. My daughter is one and her idea of sleeping through the night is having a 3-4 hours stretch without nursing. I really don't mind because she is one of the happiest babies I know! I look at other babies who are 'made to sleep' for their parents' convenience, let's just say their behavioral problems are nothing fun. We never swaddled conventionally, she would always get out of a swaddle. We did use a Woombie though, I loved it! It gives the baby the freedom to move, she would fall asleep nursing in the Woombie. It would keep her from startling herself every five minutes yet she could still move her arms in it. Precious moments! When I wrote that review I wasn't as experienced as I am now. I can confidently say that holding my baby is not going to spoil her, it will only make for a more independent and well adjusted adult :) Glad to find someone who shares the same views on Lunch!
February 26, 2010
will have to check out the wombie. great to find a Mama who love to hold her baby as long as it takes
March 05, 2010
really interesting.. our baby did sleep so much more when swaddled... but yes they did fight it. We found a great product that was not restricting like a swaddle but our swaddle addict (would only have good long sleeps when swaddled) transitioned wonderfully into this , it was called the Peke Moe and we got it from New Zealand - http://www.pekemoe.co.nz very throught provoking though. thanks!
More Swaddling reviews
Quick Tip by . February 28, 2010
I swaddled not to get baby to sleep, but to keep her asleep. Her twitching little hands would hit her face and wake herself up!
About the reviewer
Giuditta Tornetta ()
Ranked #149
I am a certified birth and postpartum doula, lactation educator, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, and the author of the best selling book Painless Childbirth: An Empowering Journey Through pregnancy … more
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Swaddling is an age-old practice of wrapping infants snugly in swaddling cloths, blankets or similar cloth so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted. Swaddling bands were often used to further restrict the infant. It was commonly believed that this was essential for the infants to develop proper posture.

Swaddling fell out of favour in the seventeenth century. It has become popular again as modern medical studies indicate that swaddling assists babies to sleep, and to remain asleep; and that it lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

A modified form of swaddling is becoming increasingly popular today as a means of settling and soothing irritable infants. The lengthy swaddling cloths of mediaeval Madonna and Child paintings are now replaced with receiving blankets, muslin wraps, specialized 'winged' baby swaddles, or flannelette sheets. The confinement does carry a risk of the baby overheating if the swaddling material is too thick, or the room is too warm. Swaddling also prevents newborns waking themselves with their startle reflex.

Looser wrappings, tucked but not tied, can generally be kicked off by a wakeful baby. They are still useful for keeping the baby warm, without increasing the SIDS risk, because the wrappings stay well clear of the baby's face and airway. This assumes that the baby is put to sleep on its back, as anti-SIDS precautions recommend. By the time the baby is learning to roll over, often around 6 months, it should be sleeping in less ...

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