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On the imperative of baby swaddling

September 26th, 2012 Posted in The Art of Parenting

Hey you, with the crying baby. I understand that this little person is, in deeply emotional, psychological, physiological, theological senses of the term, an extension of your person.

Please recognize, however, that this is not literally the case.

In other words, the fact that you are warmed by—if research on the average American is to be believed—an extra 23 pounds of fat above and beyond what God and the FDA intended, does not mean that your baby’s skin is sufficiently insulated in that onesie that is no thicker than the outer layer of a desiccated onion.
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Here’s the thing: your baby comes equipped, at no extra charge to you, with approximately four times more cold-sensing thermoreceptors under his skin than heat-sensing ones. This is because cold is an unnatural state for the human body. Now, these handy thermoreceptors use chemoelectrical impulses to convey to your baby’s hypothalamus—at about the same speed as Amtrak’s faster trains, not their slow-moving discount ones—that his parent, while no doubt well-educated and highly sophisticated on many fronts, is a dimwitted nimrod when it comes to caring for a brand new human being.

Now, your baby has not had time to develop a suite of sophisticated responses to the onslaught of life’s indignities. He has not yet cultivated a repertoire of self-pitying soliloquies. Your baby cannot say to you: “Mother, father, my densely arrayed cold-sensing thermocrecptors have alerted my hypothalamus to the alarming reality that the air is far too cool for my underinsulated new body.”

This is why, as you schlep through the airport with your barely dressed infant on your hip, his arms and legs dangling like limp celery sticks poking from the top of a grocery sack, he is screaming for someone—anyone— to wrap him in a blanket, for God’s sake.

Further, I understand that you are an emancipated adult. You are fully accustomed to a liberty of movement that is unparalleled in human history. You can walk down almost any street in America. You can drive thousands of miles on a whim. With enough money, you can hop on a jet and traverse the globe. You chafe at inhibitors to your freedom. You probably consider it an imposition when anyone tucks your sheets too tightly beneath the foot of your mattress.

Your baby has only recently emerged, however, from a blissful forty weeks in which he was safely ensconced in a liquid paradise of approximately 99.86 degrees Fahrenheit. He’s kept himself tucked in a tight little ball of satisfaction. He has been greeted every morning by his knees, and he likes seeing them.

Now you’ve got him poised over an abyss, in an environment approximately 20 degrees lower than what he is accustomed to, and he hasn’t seen either knee for the past hour. No wonder he’s yelping like you stole him.

The point is, it’s taking all the self-restraint I can muster not to snatch your baby from your hands, yank your shirt off your back, and bundle him the way civilized parents knew to do before we got too worldly wise to listen any more to our grandmothers. Give me a jury of mamas who know the first thing about baby bundling, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t convict me.

There are any number of Internet resources on this topic. Shoot, pay my airfare, and I’ll come show you how to do it myself. All I’m asking is that you stop carrying your baby like he is a stuffed monkey that you won by hurling baseballs toward milk jugs at the state fair. Take a cue from the Mother of God, and swaddle—for the love of all that is holy—that baby.

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