Saturday, December 24, 2011


Swaddle \SWOD-l\ , verb;
1. To bind an infant with long, narrow strips of cloth to prevent free movement
2. To wrap anything round with bandages
1. A long, narrow strip of cloth used for swaddling or bandaging
My swaddled baby, on his first night home.
Conventions in baby care change a lot over time. A generation ago, babies were supposed to sleep on their stomachs, now they're ALWAYS to sleep on their backs. Breast feeding went out of vogue and now it's back with a vengeance. The list goes on. Swaddling, however, has stood the test of time. Jesus was swaddled 2000 years ago and the practice continues in modern hospitals today.

This word goes back to the 1300's as a frequentative* form of Old English swaþian. Swaþian ("to swathe") derives from swaðu ("track, trace, band"), which comes from Proto-Germanic *swathan or *swatho. In Old English, the word for "infant's swaddling bands" was swaþum, which is the dative plural of swaðu.

*The 'frequentative form' indicates repeated action. We don't really have this in English anymore, but we used to and many forms remain in our language. Some examples: daze/dazzle, piss/piddle, flit/flitter.

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