Dr. Charles Price, pediatric orthopedist at the Winnie and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, has reported a direct connection between incorrect swaddling and hip dysplasia. “Swaddling an infant has many positive effects such calming a crying baby and soothing pain in infants. Unfortunately many parents are taught to swaddle the baby’s entire body to create a tight cocoon, and this restriction of movement in the lower half of the body can lead to post-natal hip dysplasia.”
Hip dysplasia is the most common infant abnormality and results when the top of the femur (leg bone) is not properly located in the hip socket or is loose in the hip socket. The condition is most common in breech birth babies, first born girls and when there is a genetic predisposition (family history). If diagnosed early and with proper care, this condition can usually be reversed. Recently, however, it has been discovered that infants whose hips were normal at birth are developing hip dysplasia in the early months, and this may be due to improper swaddling. Improper swaddling has been associated with hip dysplasia in specific cultures worldwide where tight swaddling is the norm. The condition often goes undiagnosed and leads to early onset of adult arthritis of the hips with hip replacement at a young age.
Dr. Price offers these hip healthy swaddling tips to help avoid hip dysplasia:
• If using a blanket, wrap firmly around the arms but loosely around the legs so the hips can move freely.
• When swaddling baby, avoid stretching the legs out straight or pressing them together.
• Encourage baby’s hips to be spread and bent as if riding on a horse. (When carrying baby, wrap his legs around your body for proper hip development.)
• Consider using a sleepsack product with a roomy bottom such as the Halo SleepSack Swaddle which is a fool proof way to swaddle baby in a hip healthy manner.
For additional information, visit hipdysplasia.org.