It is no surprise that my favorite word is susurro (in Spanish), or its English equivalent, susurrus. I believe in the power of the whisper which like a vine curls its way into the tightest spaces within us. Whispering and shushing are twin sisters, alike yet with slight difference.
Baby shushing and swaddling was buzzed about this week, prompted by a study published in the journal Pediatrics and Patti Neighmond’s report about it on NPR, which I quote a bit below.
My first thought was to dismiss it… “well duh, of course, hardly new.” Anyone who has had any contact with an infant knows how to shush and how to swaddle and how to do so in a million different combinations and sequences. It is instinctual. This, however, is a case where the power of the visual far exceeds that of its description in words. Well, judge for yourself.
First, the description.
[It is] a method that Harvey Karp, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician, developed about a decade ago to calm a screeching infant. The technique involves swaddling the baby, putting the baby on her stomach, gently swinging her, shushing into her ear, and offering a pacifier to suck on.
Karp says the method works because it simulates the security of the womb. “In the womb, there’s a symphony of sensations, constant jiggling, constant whooshing, which is the sound of the blood flow through the arteries, and constant touching against the velvet walls of the womb.”
Nothing new, right? Well yes and no. There is a twist here which is clear in the video. It’s brilliant and magical and even if you haven’t or don’t intend on shushing any babies in the near future this is well worth a watch.
What is striking for me about the video is the immediacy of the response. Actually it’s not the first time I’ve seen it…
When my friend Nadia’s boys were infants she would wrap them up tightly like little mummies the way her North African Berber mama taught her, and they would quiet instantly, and sleep. Some (including me, at first) find the binding a cruel thing, but really it is kind.
Imagine if you will an infant (not unlike the one in the video), lying on its back with arms and legs flailing in this open space so different from the one which they’ve known for nine months. They beg to be held tightly, to be wrapped once again in the safety of the womb.
This power of this sensation doesn’t end at infancy: weighted or wrapped blankets and garments are known to be effective in calming and centering adults as well as children of all ages. Animals too are soothed by the restraint of motion, by binding their torsos, and are often wrapped in blankets or towels for grooming or medical treatment or to calm their fears (of thunder, in particular).
There is something so pure and incomparably soothing about wrapping another or even ourselves like little burritos and… just thinking about it makes me want to crawl into bed and do just that.