In many countries around the world, swaddling a baby is a very natural thing to do and for good reason. It makes perfect sense that a newborn baby would feel secure and warm in a swaddle. After spending nine months in their mom’s womb, to expose them to a cold environment goes against all our natural instincts. Swaddling can also help calm colicky babies and induce sleep in all babies, with the added benefit of preventing a baby from waking from the “startle reflex,” a natural reflex that all healthy babies have. In the United States, 90 percent of babies up to the age of six months are swaddled.
But now doctors and health care professionals are warning us of the dangers of swaddling. Dr.Nicholas Clarke a professor and orthopedic surgeon states that swaddling tightly around the hips and legs of babies can lead to an increase in developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). “This is because it forces the hips to straighten and shift forward, risking the potential for misalignment, and this in turn is associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement in middle age.”
Dr. Harriet Hiscock an Australian pediatrician at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, states that for babies born with hip problems and then swaddled,can lead to delayed walking. In countries where swaddling has been reduced, there is found to be a reduction of hip problems in babies.
Fortunately babies and parents can still enjoy the benefits of swaddling by just making some modifications to how a baby is swaddled. Tight at the top, loose at the bottom. Make sure your baby’s hips are not restricted and that your baby can fully stretch out his or her legs.
Do you swaddle your baby, and if so, do you have a special technique?