When I had my first baby, I was all about the swaddling. She was born right when the cold winter weather was setting in, so keeping her warm and cozy was priority number one. I don’t think she loved it, though. The skeptical look on her tiny face made me wonder what a baby is thinking when they’re being swaddled. She never gave the impression that she was totally comfortable in her swaddle. True, I never reached an "expert level" technique but I knew that, as one of the five S’s, swaddling could help her relax and sleep for longer than an hour at a time (her, apparently, favorite newborn routine). I wanted to make it work.
Still, wanting it to work doesn't mean that every kid will automatically (or ever) take to swaddling, and as they get older swaddling might compromise their safety. When I had my second baby, in the summer, the heat precluded me from wrapping him up. The two of us would sweat all over each other when I’d walk around with him in the baby carrier. I retired the swaddling blankets shortly after his birth, sadly.
Still, even after my swaddling days were over, I continued to wonder what my kids thought about being completely tucked in. Since they are growing up to constantly question everything their parents do, I’m guessing they had some reservations about it. I may be totally projecting, but here are some things I'm pretty confident in assuming a baby is thinking when they’re being swaddled. (Especially by someone, like me, who never got the hang of it.)
“Well, There Goes Twenty Minutes Of My Life”
Swaddling is not for anyone short on time. Or patience. Or extra swaddling blankets when you ruin the ones you have, overcome by the monumental defeat of flannel that refuses to fold to your will.
“You Are No Match For Baby Houdini”
Escape is every pre-ambulatory kid’s main motive in life, I'm sure of it. Some kids are good sleepers, others are good eaters, but all show extraordinary talent in the field of incredible break-outs. Today it’s their swaddling cocoon, tomorrow it will be their crib. I suppose this is good practice for parents, so we can batten down the hatches when our kids become adolescents with plans of sneaking out of the house.
“Escaping Is Fun So Let’s Do It Every Five Minutes For The Next Two Hours”
They are so good at breaking out of their swaddle, they want to show off this new skill for basically forever. It never gets old for these little bundles of exasperation. I can't say the same for parents, though.
Please don’t tell me I was the only mom who thought a swaddling blanket with velcro closures (to avoid aforementioned escapes of tiny hands intent on scratching chubby cheeks) was the best idea ever. What I gained in adhesive fortitude, I lost in peace and quiet. I woke up my baby with that thing every damn time.
“I Am A Person, Not An Origami Project”
There are approximately 8 billion precise folds a parent must make to properly swaddle an infant. Yes, that's correct. Billions, because if you mess up on step two, you will be royally screwed by step 72.
“Does This Mean I Turn Into A Butterfly When I Wake Up?”
Swaddled babies captured in the photographs of Anne Geddes are poster children for the practice. When I would attempt to wrap mine up, cocoon-like in their soft blankies, they were more like mummified dolls. It was creepy.
“If This Is Any Indication Of Your Burrito-Making Skills, We Have A Problem”
Spot on with this one, kid. My burritos always fall apart. However, I’m pretty good at wrapping presents, so that counts for something, right? I mean, if the use of tape was permissible in the art of swaddling, I would be the best ever at it.
“You Know As Soon I’m All Tucked In, I’ll Have A Diaper Blow-out, Right?”
Yes, I know. We all know. It is every parent’s expectation that the worst kind of diaper situation will only happen at the most inconvenient time. Just get it over with and let us all move on.
“Say ‘Snug As A Bug In A Rug’ One More Time And You Can Kiss Goodbye That 6-Week Milestone Smile You’ve Been Waiting For”
If I didn’t sweetly coo at my infant as I swaddled her, I was afraid she would be totally confused. Like, why exactly was I constricting her movement when we both worked so hard to get her out of the cramped quarters of my womb? So yes, I did rely on a lot of corny phrases. Look, it was 3 AM. She wouldn’t sleep. I didn’t know what I was saying. I hoped she wouldn't hold it against me.
“Too Tight… Must… Spit… Up… “
When this would happen — and it happened often — I was doubly insulted. First, by the sheer waste of time spent on swaddling the kid before she vomited. Second, because I had risen in the middle of the night to sit on the couch for 45 minutes to feed her all the precious breast milk she just spewed over both of us. However, if I hadn’t swaddled her effectively she undoubtably would have broken loose. So, the choice was either bask briefly in the successful glow of a good swaddle until she throws up, or gingerly swaddle to avoid any messy blowback, knowing that you will be re-swaddling until the kid starts flipping over, roughly 90 days from now. Deciding between two evils is basically what parenting is all about.
“I’m Going To Give You The Impression That This Is Chilling Me Out But As Soon As You’re Done, I’ll Start Screaming Again”
Classic baby move, this one. I finally feel confident in my parenting skills, and you flip the script on me. Well played, child, well played.