Is swaddling a safe to calm babies and help them sleep, or could there be a downside to it? Some daycares are now discontinuing the practice due to growing evidence that incorrect swaddling may cause hip dysplasia. (source)
While there is evidence to support the idea that swaddled babies sleep better and cry less, a study conducted at the University of Southampton found that some wrapping techniques may interfere with proper hip development. Dr. Anthony Scaduto, chief of pediatric orthopedics at the Orthopedic Institute for Children at the University of California, has also “noticed that an increasing percentage of the patients referred to him because of suspected hip dysplasia have been swaddled.” (source)
What NOT To DO
According Dr. Charles T. Price, director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, incorrect swaddling techniques are nothing new:
“Studies from Japan, Turkey, and from American Indians have shown that tight swaddling in the papoose position can cause hip dysplasia and can even cause babies hips to dislocate.” (source)
According to Dr. Price, looseness “of the hips is the most common abnormality in newborn infants, so proper swaddling is important to keep the hips healthy. ” (source)
Is Swaddling Safe Even When Done Correctly?
In this article, lactation consultant Nancy Mohrbacher suggests that we need to rethink swaddling completely. She explains that, according to several studies, newborns who are swaddled have a weaker suckling reflex, lose more weight, and are colder than babies who receive skin-to-skin care.
So should we ditch the practice completely? I can’t say what is right for anyone else, but with my last baby I practiced near constant skin-to-skin for the first weeks of life, then began swaddling as the startle reflex kicked in. I found that it was helpful in preventing him from waking himself up as he flailed his arms around, and of course I made sure to keep the room cool and use proper technique to keep him safe.
The Secret To Hip Healthy Swaddling
So how do we keep our babies happy and snug while promoting healthy hip development? Here’s a demonstration of proper swaddling technique:
Houdini’s that they are, my kisd usually escaped from a plain blanket swaddle pretty easily. I ended up using this special wrap instead – it’s very easy to swaddle in a hip-healthy way and it works really well!
Also, please note: Most swaddle blanket manufacturers recommend weaning from the swaddle when baby can roll over.
Other Ways To Promote Healthy Hip Development
As the International Hip Dysplasia Institute illustrates, certain baby carriers do not support babies hips properly. (photo source) You can find more on the biomechanics of baby wearing here and here.
Which Carrier Should I Use?
There are many good ones out there, but here are the two I personally use and love:
For younger babies, I love the Boba wrap. It comes with instructions for using the “frog position,” which is considered hip friendly.For older babies and toddlers, I love the Boba Carrier. I’ve also heard fabulous things about the Ergo and many others.
If anyone has another ergonomically correct carrier that they’d like to recommend please do!