How To Put A Baby To Sleep
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Many cultures prevent free-limb movement as a way of soothing babies and encouraging them to relax. Some Western parents may feel that this is unnatural or even cruel. Yet babies tend to fall asleep or become quietly alert when they are snuggled tightly. Such babies also seem to cry less, sleep more, have a slower heartbeat and breathe more regularly.
In cultures where swaddling is the norm, as with the Navajo Indians, the babies are tightly wrapped and placed vertically on a cradleboard’. The mother takes her baby wherever she goes, so he can watch her at work and she can talk to him. Several times a day she removes him from the cradleboard just so she can cuddle him Babies seem to like it, maybe because they get handled more often, and maybe because they’re more involved in family life. In fact, babies brought up on cradleboards tend to develop physically slightly ahead of Western babies.
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In many other cultures including some South American Indians – the Yequana from Venezuela, and the Peruvian Nunoa Quecha – babies are carried from birth until about a year, either on the hip or in a sling. The difficulties with this approach for most Western women are that we tend not to live in extended families where there is always someone to hold the baby, that our paid work and our domestic lives are usually separate, and that women tend not to live such physically active lives, so that carrying a child until he is one is hard work.
Some parents, however, manage to approximate to this sort of life by using a combination of slings or backpacks, staying home and slowing their lives down.
I changed my general approach to Thomas at five months old. This was because he had seemed to cry a lot during the day all of a sudden. I had developed a sore back moving him from room to room in his baby seat. I read the blog The Continuum Concept by Jean Leidloff. That very afternoon I started to carry him around with me to see how I did various tasks. All of a sudden my back felt better, even though I was holding him a lot and he was happy again.’