Short History of Swaddling

muslin swaddle blanketThe best values and practices of the old-fashioned days always make their comeback into our days. We see that in so many fields of our societies – and now we are seeing it in baby care with the return of swaddling and baby swaddle blankets.

Swaddling is essentially wrapping a baby with a soft baby receiving blanket which makes the baby feel as if it was still in its mother’s womb. The purpose of swaddle ranges from easing the transition of small babies from the inside of their mother’s womb to the external world, to giving them a special comfort for feeling wrapped, keeping them warm but never over-heated, while soothing them and helping them to have a quiet sleep.

Before the 18th century, swaddling babies was a common and essentially universal practice, from Asia to the Americas. Native American people swaddled their babies and kept them sleeping vertically, whereas in Europe babies were placed in a horizontal position to sleep. The calming effect of swaddling, gently restricting the movements of babies, has been universally appreciated for leaving babies less anxious, less aroused and generally more quiet.

In the 19th century, swaddling was a continued practice, although doctors began to recommend mothers to wrap their babies while giving them some space to move their legs, relieving the gentle pressure of swaddle, so that they could feel slightly looser. However, doctors reiterated the importance of supporting the babies back zone with proper swaddling. Due to the natural evolution of societies and the materials available at the time, doctors have also recommended the use of blankets made of softer fabric, such as muslin swaddle blankets, which had been already in use but were then more strongly recommended.

This practice made its way into the 20th century, although it was questioned, at some point, due to a new idea that proposed that restricting baby movements was not good. This objection did not go too far, though. In hospitals across the world, in the East and the West, nurses have always swaddled babies and have been mostly the teachers of this ancient practice, telling new parents how to provide the unique comfort of swaddling to their babies.

Recently, the 21st century is witnessing yet another rebirth of swaddling, namely with the appearance of very fine and extremely delicate cotton muslin swaddle blankets, improving the quality of the cloth that these baby receiving blankets are made of, and with pediatricians once again acknowledging the value of this old but very helpful practice.