Should Baby Burritos Be Banned?
In some daycares that’s exactly what’s happened thanks to growing evidence that incorrect swaddling may cause hip dysplasia. (source) Other objections – such as workers placing swaddled babies on their stomachs to sleep – seem easy enough to correct, but is there merit to the idea that swaddling may cause harm?
Yes, says a study conducted at the University of Southampton.
While there is evidence to support the idea that swaddled babies sleep better and cry less, 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 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, emphasis mine)
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)
So how do we keep our babies happy and snug while promoting healthy hip development? It’s easy!
Is Swaddling Healthy (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
Here’s a demonstration of proper swaddling technique:
Houdini’s that they are, my little potami 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
Which Carrier Should I Use?
The National Hip Dysplasia Institute also mentions “car seats, exercisers, rockers, jumpers, swings, bouncers and walkers, and molded seating items” as products of possible concern.
If you have these in your house it may be worth researching the risks/benefits of your particular model.
Photo credits: Geoffrey Wiseman, tstadler