Customs

Wrapping Babies Keeps them Calm and Helps Them Grow

A Mother Wrapping Her Baby on the Floor (Photo: Walter Coraza)

Mothers in Cuzco try every day, whether in their home or outside it, to raise their children the best they can, with love, delicacy and warmth.

The children are always active. Even when they are babies they stretch out their hands and their legs to get to know their environment.  This need motivates them sometimes to even cry from frustration, hunger, and tiredness.

To care well for their children, Cuzco’s mothers have the custom of wrapping their children in thin blankets of cotton today, although they used to use wide, hand-woven belts. They do this to keep the children calm and quiet and so that they can sleep well.

We call this hualtar, or fajar, to wrap up. Hualtar consists of wrapping blankets around the child. Sometimes people use the woven belt first and many times they do not, especially more modern women in Cuzco. In rural areas the belt is most common. They place the child straight and try to keep her or him straight as they wind the cloth around them. Their hands and feet, and even their fingers and toes should all be in a straight position.

This requires practice and care, since the babies are fragile. A bad movement or a forceful effort can cause them a scrape or even a wound, sometimes a broken bone. Hualtar can even help prevent this.

People say that hualtaring a child has many benefits.  It keeps the healthy. My grandmother says that when children are wrapped they grow up straight and strong.  Babies stay calmer and they can sleep warm and comfortable among all the blankets embrace them. If they are loose and start crying, hualtaring them can help them calm down.

This is an ancient custom in our land. Our queperinas and llicllas, woven carrying cloths, serve to wrap the children and to carry them on ones back. This allows the baby and even younger children to always be with their mother and family members as they carry out their normal, daily activities.

Once the children are older and have gotten used to being wrapped, mothers no longer put all the blankets around them. Instead they dress them in warm clothes of their own and only use the queperina or lliclla to carry them.  That way they quiet down and are comfortable.

A Mother Carrying an Baby on Her Back (Photo: Walter Coraza)
A Mother Carrying an Baby on Her Back (Photo: Walter Coraza)

My mother told me that she would wrap my brothers, sister, and me before we could walk. She did it so we would grow up healthy, strong, and straight. That way she could also do the housework. My mother still has the cloths with which she wrapped us.

Nevertheless, with the coming of modernity, many women discuss with each other whether they should or should not hualtar their babies. Despite the strength of tradition and the evidence of its good work in producing healthy adults, some people think it is better to leave the babies unencumbered. You will hear this discussion in our families.

Nevertheless, the hualta is considered to even have health value for adults. When needed, they can go to a specialist to have a wide band wrapped around their middle. It calms and helps with various ills.

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