cultural differences English motherhood new babies swaddling

On swaddling

I just read an article on swaddling. And the only reaction I could utter at first was… “Really?” “Did she really say that?”. I didn’t even know that there was a controversy about it until today. To me, it always seemed one of those very American things that I will never embrace, and it had never occurred to me that it could pose any risks, as some seem to be suggesting now. The article defends swaddling from its newly minted detractors. One of the points she makes for swaddling is that not swaddling could increase the cases of infant abuse by parents. Once more, really? Apparently in the many countries that don’t swaddle their babies (Spain among them), we must abuse our babies as a result. I was speechless. Because, of course, we don’t.
The first time I set ayes on a receiving blanket was during my first son’s baby shower. I had never seen one, and I didn’t have a clue on what to do with it. Once I was told, I added them to the baby’s layette, and I didn’t think about it again until we came home from the hospital,which only happened during an eight day stay in the NICU. Where he wasn’t swaddled. We had a wonderful postpartum doula who guided us through the mysteries of caring for a newborn in the US. Which were many. She taught us how to swaddle him, and she would do it. But it never made any sense to me. I have read/heard all the rationale behind it, but after nine months squeezed in a tight uterus, what I would want to do is stretch as much as I could. If I were a baby, I would be mad as hell if someone wanted to curb my newly discovered freedom of movement. My boys seemed to agree, and none of them liked it a bit or aboded by it when someone swaddled them.
We don’t swaddle babies in Spain. The idea of having them half naked and only covered in a blanket in the hospital is preposterous there. They are born, they get a bath, and are put on a PJ, or any other clothing device of their parents liking. In which they can move arms and legs, and stretch as much as they want.
If you have parents on the brink of a nervous breakdown, maybe what you should offer them is support, not a binding device. Support from their families, support from their friends and the community. Americans are quick to offer practical help when one has a baby. but what I craved the most when my babies were born was company. Human warmth. Adults visiting me. Having people around. There are few experiences as isolating as motherhood. You spend the first weeks at home, with a baby who, in the best case, nurses eight times a day, in the worst screams for hours. I have had both kinds. But nothing compares to the loneliness of those first months, particularly if you are in a city with weather as wonderful as the one we enjoy in Chicago. Most days, I was alone until my husband got home from work. That was at least ten hours a day. Swaddling wouldn’t have made a difference for me. Having my family or my Spanish friends closer would have.
And I know that I would have complained in Spain too, where people visit all the time, invade your hospital room when the only thing you want to do is sleepforheavenssake, they show up at your home and expect you to look good, well dressed, and ready to entertain, and hover around giving unwanted advice and stealing the baby from your arms so you can fix something to eat. But I would rather offer that to new moms, than a substitute for human arms, for human warmth. In this one, I side with the Spanish way of doing things.

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