Medics caution swaddling babies ’causes hip problems’

The age-old practice of swaddling to sooth and lull the new born baby to sleep could be harming their health cautions a leading orthopaedic surgeon!

Swaddling restricts a child’s movement which can alter the development of the hip joints.

Swaddling, a technique of bundling a baby tightly in a blanket with arms restrained and legs extended is becoming quite popular because of its supposed calming effects. A 61 per cent increase in demand for swaddling clothes between 2010 and 2011 is enough proof of resurgence in the practice.

According to Prof Nicholas Clarke, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton University Hospital, swaddling raises the risk of potentially causing developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), a common congenital disorder which elevates the odds of kids needing a hip replacement or osteoarthritis in middle age.

It is vital that parents, pediatricians, midwives and others should make certain that swaddling is loose enough to allow babies to bend their legs up and out at the hips during the first six months after birth.

Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Prof Clarke stated, “There has been a recent resurgence of swaddling. In order to allow for healthy hip development, legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural development of the hip joints. The babies’ legs should not be tightly wrapped in extension and pressed together.”

Hip dislocation is more rampant in far eastern countries where swaddling is a common practice compared to places like Nigeria where infants are carried with their legs wrapped around the mother’s waist.

Jane Munro, quality and audit development adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said, “Normally a baby will lie with the hips flexed, and swaddling may reduce the degree to which the baby can keep this natural position. We advise parents to avoid swaddling, but it is also crucial that we take into account each mother’s cultural background, and to provide individualised advice to ensure she knows how to keep her baby safe, able to move and not get overheated.”