Swaddling is the practice of binding or wrapping an infant in bands of cloth. An ancient custom, it is practiced in places as diverse as rural China, the American Southwest, Eastern Europe, and the Peruvian highlands. The reasons given for swaddling are also varied and include keeping the infant warm and protected in cold climates and at high altitudes, developing obedience, facilitating holding, and ensuring the baby's physical safety. Empirical studies have demonstrated that swaddling does serve to maintain higher, more stable temperatures inside the infant's microenvironment. Swaddling has also been studied, with limited success, as a possible technique for managing pain, enhancing neuromuscular development, and lengthening the sleep time of high-risk infants. Although swaddling retards motor performance while the baby remains wrapped, infants quickly catch up once swaddling is discontinued. A few studies have also suggested that swaddling may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or of respiratory infections.
See also: INFANCY; SLEEPING
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