Probably the most famous record of swaddling is found in the New Testament concerning the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:6–2:7:
Swaddling clothes described in the Bible consisted of a cloth tied together by bandage-like strips. After an infant was born, the umbilical cord was cut and tied, and then the baby was washed, rubbed with salt and oil, and wrapped with strips of cloth. These strips kept the newborn child warm and also ensured that the child's limbs would grow straight. Ezekiel 16describes Israel as unswaddled, a metaphor for abandonment.
During Tudor times, swaddling involved wrapping the new baby in linen bands from head to foot to ensure the baby would grow up without physical deformity. A stay band would be attached to the forehead and the shoulders to secure the head. Babies would be swaddled like this until about 8 or 9 months.
The Swiss surgeon Felix Würtz (approx. 1500 to approx. 1598) was the first who criticized aspects of swaddling openly.
In the seventeenth century the scientific opinion towards swaddling began to change. There was an association of neglect with swaddling, especially in regard to wetnurses who would leave babies in their care swaddled for long periods without washing or comforting them. More than a hundred years after Würtz, physicians and philosophers from England began to openly criticize swaddling and finally demanded its complete abolishment. The British philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) rejected swaddling in his 1693 publication Some Thoughts Concerning Education, becoming a lobbyist for not binding babies at all. This thought was very controversial during the time, but slowly gained ground, first in England and later elsewhere in Western Europe.
William Cadogan (1711–1797) seems to have been the first physician, who pleaded for complete abolition of swaddling. In his "Essay upon Nursing" of 1748 he expressed his view of contemporary child care, swaddling, the topic of too much clothing for infants and over feeding. He wrote: