The swaddle is an amazing thing. One of the best things about a properly-executed swaddle is that it makes the infant look like a loaf of Challah bread. My sister Christina baked the loaf on the left; the wife delivered the bun (on the right) from her own oven.
My sister made the bread with utter disregard to the stylings of the swaddle. When it emerged from the oven, Jez and I noticed a similarity, and a camera was produced.
Before November 2010, I’d heard the term swaddle used in the Biblical sense, and nowhere else.
“The angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12).
But this month I learned that the swaddle is a technique used to wrap and, more importantly, give comfort to a newborn. I don’t know how I raised two newborns in the 80s without being hip to the swaddle. It probably would have saved his parents a lot of grief — not to mention, our un-swaddled newborns.
(Update: I’m informed by the ex- that she swaddled our 80s newborns regularly, and that I’m a dumbass. OK, she didn’t really say that. But she kinda did, and I accept the characterization as accurate.)
Essentially, the swaddle is the neonatal version of a straitjacket. The child is laid on a cloth. The arms are pinned to the side, and the cloth is wrapped around him to keep him immobilized. The theory is that it mimics the tight space of the womb.
It took me a full week to perfect the swaddle. Nurses at Piedmont Hospital tried to teach it. It looked easy. But I didn’t really figure it out until I grasped the fact that the swaddle was designed to immobilize the child’s limbs.
I didn’t master the technique until watching the DVD of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” made by a pediatrician named Harvey Karp, who clearly learned his TV stylings from Fred Rogers. (My 80s infants loved them some Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Consequently, I did too. So that’s not a put down.)
Karp’s video demonstrates the swaddle, which legions of Youtube uploaders have mimicked.
There are now, on the market, specifically designed bits of cloth designed to maximize swaddling capability. Our friends Tally and Brad gave us one. Its design closely mimics that of an old-school straitjacket, minus the buckles. We use it regularly. Its camouflage print makes it all the more fetching.
Many people take comfort from Scripture. I take mine knowing that the baby Jesus was, in all probability, like any other newborn, a howling banshee who needed the occasional swaddle.