Swaddling Dilemma

By Doula Giuditta, Barefoot & Pregnant

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 remind you of the 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 at risk of being mishandled by a frustrated parent. 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 feel 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 on 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 ok. 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