The practice of swaddling goes back nearly as far as human history, itself. The
oldest archaeological evidence of mothers swaddling their babies begins in 4000
B.C. with the migrating peoples of ancient central Asia. The ancient Greeks and
Romans swaddled. There are even biblical references to the practice.
Swaddling’s ability to soothe and calm babies has been known to mothers around the
world for countless generations. But while the evidence of its benefits has been
clear to women for thousands of years and across every continent, today we can turn
to science for proof that swaddling is one of the most gentle, effective, and beneficial
practices for mothers and their children.
In 2002, the medical journal Pediatrics published a study that explained why babies
who are swaddled sleep more peacefully by preventing spontaneous movements (called
reflex motion) from waking them up continually during the night. The same year,
the Journal of Applied Physiology wrote that swaddled infants stay in REM sleep
(the most restorative, deepest sleep) longer than those who were not.
Swaddling is said to be as familiar to babies as it is to their moms because it
recreates the secure and cozy feeling of the womb -- and using swaddles made of
natural cotton muslin only enhances that blissful feeling. Muslin is a finely-woven
breathable fabric believed to have gotten its name more than 6,000 years ago from
the city where it was reportedly first produced – the ancient city of Mosul, located
in northern Mesopotamia in what is now modern-day Iraq. Historians in Bangladesh
claim that muslin was first produced in their region of the ancient world, and was
held in such high regard that it was used by ancient Egyptians to wrap mummies.
The delicate, yet durable weave was a favorite of early merchants who sold the fabric
on journeys across ancient trade routes. In fact, in 1298, Marco Polo described
muslin in his book The Travels. The fabric was first imported to Europe from India
in the 17th century. Muslin's weave also makes it stretchy, and therefore ideal
for swaddling, as the "natural give" allows the blanket to be tucked snuggly around
a baby without being overly restrictive.
The lightweight muslin also permits air to circulate around the baby's body, while
still providing comfort and warmth without the worry that the baby may overheat
in moderate weather. Cotton muslin is also a workhorse fabric, in that wraps woven
from this natural fiber stands up to repeated washings only becoming softer -- and
better -- with age.
Of course, all the scientific evidence in the world is no substitute for the experience
of millions of Mothers through uncountable generations: that swaddling in muslin
is one of the most loving, gentle, restorative acts a mother can perform for her
"Experts reckon that swaddling reproduces the cozy, calming environment of the womb"
Chief Executive Officer