Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Parenting – Swedish Style – Swaddling and other reasons why I'm glad I'm not a newborn

One big mistake you can make when raising a child in a foreign country – is reading too many books from your home country. The reason why this is a problem is because you find out, very quickly, that many of those 'shoulds' or 'musts' that all the experts recommend, really aren't a universal childrearing tactic. And lets keep in mind that Sweden isn't some third-world country, it is in the top 10 of great places to have and raise a child (officially the top ten referenced here exists only in my mind, but I'm pretty sure I've read that somewhere).

One of the typical American things that Swedes frown upon is the act of Swaddling. In the US, in most movies and TV shows, newborn babies are presented to their parents as tiny little packages of swaddled goodness in a hat. And I will make the giant leap to say that this is how it actually happens in many hospitals – and some of my friends have backed me up on this. In Sweden your baby is placed immediately on your chest, since this is ideal for breastfeeding, completely naked. And your baby remains naked until you dress them in the clothes you brought with you.

So what about the swaddle? Before LO was born I was showing some friends and family my babygear. I had gotten a nice miracle blanket for all of my swaddling needs. “Oh, a baby straight jacket.” “Oh how old fashioned,” they all commented. They all wrinkled their noses in disgust. Odd, I thought, since it seems like an average everyday thing in the US.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Would you want to be swaddled?” they replied.

“Well, no.” I answered. But there isn't really much about being a newborn that I would like to do. I wouldn't want to live on formula or breastmilk alone. I don't want to wear diapers. I enjoy being able to communicate my wants and needs with words. And I cannot wait to get back to a grown-up 8 hour sleep – this waking up every 3 hours is getting really old.

So there was no good reason not to swaddle – other than the old-fashioned straightjacketyness of it all. This is good, because sometimes the language of baby should's and must's gets pretty scary.

In the end we didn't swaddle. I could just never get the hang of it. But the few times LO was swaddled with the help of some of my visiting American friends, it worked like a charm.  


  1. They don't swaddle??? Really??? Wow. Well, if I ever have another baby, I am still definitely buying that combo swaddler/sleep sack I saw on Amazon. Swaddling was wonderful for my baby! A life saver! Yay for Happiest Baby on the Block!

    But why WOULD they need to swaddle, now I think about it? The babies are trapped in those sleeping bags in the pram thingies anyway. Seems like they are already constricted!

    And yes, in the US, it's common to hold your baby for the first time with it all swaddled and hatted.

  2. Nope, swaddling isn't common, at all. I found it odd that they highly recommend the wrap - which seems to have the same constricting factor - but not the swaddle.

  3. I got stuck at your wonderful blogg. It is so interesting to hear people not grown up in Sweden and their thoughts about things I haven´t thought about at all. And especially things around parenting.
    I will come back again and read more ;-)


  4. Swaddling :).....How oldfashioned!

  5. Hi,

    I stumbled upon your blog by coincidence, and stayed to read a bit about your perspective on breastfeeding and swaddling. I don't know where you live in Sweden, but the introduction you had to breastfeeding was horrible! Where I gave birth, there was a lactation consultant present to help me several times. Maybe I was lucky or you unlucky; don't know which.

    Your comment on swaddling is quite interesting. I think that is a knowledge that got lost and is on its way back in Sweden. But we are way behind US on that. (On the other hand, I think US may be behind in realising how important skin contact is for the baby.)
    Anyway I really enjoyed reading your thougths on Swedish parenting. :-)

  6. I forgot to mention that I am Swedish and live in Sweden, but I have lived in the US too and interact a lot with American moms on my website.

    Take care,