Swaddling babies is causing hip problems

Swaddling your baby tightly to help them sleep or help with colic can hinder the development of a healthy hip joint.

The practice of swaddling babies is back in fashion, with it being recommended as a way to soothe a distressed child and has become a popular method of calming colic. In swaddling both the arms and legs are wrapped up tightly. It is this straightening of the legs and holding them together that can hinder the development of a healthy hip joint. This can lead to hip dysplasia and arthritis later in life.

Professor Nicholas Clarke, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, was speaking to mark Baby Hip Health Week, designated by the charity Steps.

He said “This form of swaddling used to be very commonly used across the world but, with the help of major educational programmes such as the one used to eliminate the problem in Japan in the 1980s, it was all but eradicated and cases reduced drastically. Now, I and my colleagues across the UK are witnessing its revival, with swaddlers being advertised on the internet that tightly wrap babies. For the hips,  that is exactly what you don’t want to happen.”

Girls are at particular risk of developing hip dysplasia, as are babies that are born upside down in the breach position and it runs in families. Treatment is a special harness that holds the legs apart to allow the hip to develop correctly.

If you  do want to swaddle your baby for the first 6 months, there are safe techniques that mean the legs are not rigidly wrapped but have enough room to bend their legs. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute has a good video to show the best way to swaddle. Follow this link hip healthy swaddling.

Another way of affecting the hips is by straightening the legs in car seats and baby carriers – do let your child have bent and splayed legs as this encourages healthy hip development.

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