I banish from you all tears, birthmarks, flaws, and the troubles of bed-wetting. Love your paternal and maternal uncles. Do not betray your origins. Be intelligent, learned, and discreet. Respect yourself, be brave.
Ritual instructions spoken when
swaddling a baby by the Berber people of Algeria,
Béatrice Fontanel and Claire d’Harcourt, Babies Celebrated
After Elena emigrated from Russia to Los Angeles, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Olga. As I examined Olga, I described to her proud mother all of her daughter’s wonderful abilities. Elena concentrated intensely as I spoke, struggling to understand my words.
When I placed her precious infant on a blanket to demonstrate swaddling, she smiled. Gently touching my arm, she said with a Slavic accent, “Doctor, you don’t have to show me dat. In my willage we wrap dem and put BELT around. It holds dem wery good!”
For tens of thousands of years, mothers living in cool climates have swaddled their babies. While those in very hot climates hardly ever swaddle, they do hold their infants in their arms or in slings almost twenty-four hours a day. Parents all over the globe wrap their infants because:
It’s safe—Babies are less likely to suddenly wiggle out of their parent’s arms.
It’s easy—Babies can be strapped on a parent’s back or slung on their hips.
It’s calming—Babies get less upset because they can’t flail about.