Infants have been swaddled for hundreds of years to promote sleep, keep them warm and decrease crying. Recently, however, the popularity of the practice has increased, and the pediatric and orthopedic communities are concerned that swaddling may influence the rate of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). An increase in DDH in infancy would lead to an increase in early arthritis in young adults.
If you are swaddling your infant, the most important thing to remember is that there should still be room for flexion in the legs. As the AAP stated, “Allowing even tightly swaddled infants to still have this flexion and abduction in their hips would allow for safe development of their hips.” Hip-safe swaddling is not difficult, and the International Hip Dysplasia Institute even has an online video, which demonstrates for new parents the safe swaddling technique.
The AAP also noted that infants who have other risk factors for DDH (i.e. a family history or breech position in utero) “would be at an especially high risk for worsening DDH as a result of swaddling.”
At Willows Pediatrics we routinely check newborns and infants for DDH. However, since swaddling is a risk factor that may lead to DDH in older infants, please be sure to tell your pediatrician about your swaddling practices during your office visit. If you’d like, we can show you the proper swaddling technique to ensure that the hips are allowed to develop properly.
Being a new parent isn’t easy, but the hard work pays off! Enjoy your newborn … and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.