Jan.23, 2019; Opinion by Ralph K. Campbell, MD; (www.orthomolecular.org) Swaddling of infants, particularly of newborns, is an age-old custom. Picture most artists’ concept of baby Jesus in the manger. One reason this custom has persisted to this day it is an effective means for calming. Perhaps it is the terra firma or perpetual hug feeling similar to what was experienced in its mother’s womb. It is easy to observe the calming effect on a baby who is crying and restlessly throwing its arms and legs about. After it is swaddled, these signs soon disappear.
My pediatric training finished at the same time that a pediatrician, John C. Wilcox, M.D., in Pomona, California, who wanted to slow down and devote more time to other pursuits, was looking for someone to share his practice— It turned out that we were both alumni of nearby Pomona College. We struck a deal, and it wasn’t long before I realized I got the advantage, since Dr. Wilcox proved to be an incredible pediatrician. Besides having all the skills of an accomplished pediatrician, Dr. Wilcox was an “every man’s philosopher” in that he felt strongly that starting in infancy, achieving composure is a valuable asset for adjusting to life’s difficulties, such as leaving Mom and going to school. In 1980, he published a book, “Growing with-Toward-Into-Composure.” He also wrote a Benjamin Spock-like book in Spanish and took part in many pediatric education projects for Hispanics of this continent.
But a clear benefit I had from working alongside this great man was learning his method of swaddling. Many are familiar with seeing a swaddled baby Jesus, as depicted in Renaissance paintings, but the swaddling material appeared to be just a band of linen that literally wrapped up the infant; whereas Dr. Wilcox’s method used a thin blanket. Of course, the ancients didn’t have access to what we call a “receiving blanket.” His method was published in a pediatric journal and quickly adopted, almost universally, in new-born nurseries.
A video would be the best way to demonstrate the technique, but a word description has to suffice:
1) Lay out a light weight (“receiving”) blanket catty-corner.
2) Fold the “north” corner down, and place the infant on its back so that its head extends above the corner.
3) With arms placed at a 45 degree angle with the body, one at a time, take the outside corner and pull it firmly over the arm and under the back.
4) Do the same with the other arm and, with a large safety pin, pin the corner to the back side of the blanket. The pin should be on the outside of the blanket. This leaves the little one looking as if it is saying, “This is OK.”
This link to Mayo Clinic’s swaddling instructions https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/multimedia/how-to-swaddle-a-baby/sls-20076006 is much like Dr. Wilcox’s method. To be more effective it is necessary to position the infant as follows:
5) The final step is to hold the infant with its back to your chest while drawing up its legs with your hands. When the baby is calm, transfer it, in this position, into an infant seat (or something similar) with the back at about a 45 degree angle. “Contentment” can be observed by lessening of motor activity and restlessness.
I am not pleased with the “back to sleep” recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, because of situations where, if swaddled and on its back, without being elevated, like a turtle in that position, the infant cannot get over onto its tummy. Surely, avoiding soft bedding and crib bumpers that could obstruct the airway is necessary and sensible. But newborns instinctively have a built-in safety measure. I have many times put my hand under the newborn’s tummy and let it down onto a crib mattress. When it is about ready for “touch down”, it will instinctually extend its arms to prepare for a soft landing, and it can roll to the supine position if desired. One such situation comes from an adeno-virus infection in which such copious amounts of postnasal drip secretions are formed, that on its back, an infant can’t find an adequately clear airway. Swaddling plus the more upright position described above provide a safe solution to this problem. I have discussed this with the pediatric “sleep” authorities, to no avail.
To grow and stay healthy, infants need excellent nutrition. Milk is the perfect food for newborns, but sometimes extra nutrients can help. I’ve written articles about nutritional treatments for colic (sodium ascorbate, probiotics/yogurt),  coughs from colds or flu (pediatric multivitamin and additional vitamin C and vitamin D) [2, 3], sore throat (adequate doses of multivitamin, vitamin D and mega-doses of vitamin C) , superfluous and potentially toxic contents of vaccinations (multivitamins and additional vitamin C), [5, 6].
Mother’s milk has many benefits, including antibodies pre-made by the mother’s immune system. Milk contains very little iron, and nearly all the iron it contains is bound to a special protein called lactoferrin. This is an excellent antibiotic system devised by Mother Nature. Without free iron, most harmful bacteria cannot grow, and the helpful lactobacilli that grow in the milk in the infant’s gut can thrive because they don’t need any iron. Infants don’t need any additional iron for their first several months, so any formula given to an infant in the first four months, while it can benefit from vitamins and other minerals such as magnesium, should not contain iron. That will help to keep the infant free of bacterial infections and growing healthy and satisfied. After 4-6 months, other foods such as pureed vegetables that contain essential nutrients including iron can be given to the growing infant along with a pediatric multivitamin and additional vitamins C and D. [1-7]
(Dr. Ralph Campbell, 91, is a retired, board-certified pediatrician. As Contributing Editor for the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Dr. Campbell offers his viewpoints based on his personal experience as a physician. Readers are invited to look for themselves further into this and all topics discussed in OMNS releases.)
For further reading:
1. Campbell RK. (2018) Infantile Colic.
2. Campbell RK. (2018) What about that cough?
3. Campbell RK. (2018) Influenza.
4. Campbell RK. (2018) Sore throat.
5. Campbell RK. (2017) Vaccine adjuvants and excipients.
6. Campbell RK. (2017) Vaccinations: to be or not to be.
7. Case HS. (2018) Vitamin C questions: answered.
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