Swaddled Babies at a Higher Risk of Hip Problems, Study Claims

First Posted: Oct 29, 2013 08:56 AM EDT

In recent times there has been an increase in the age-old technique of swaddling as parents claim this offers relief to restless infants. But a new study uncovers the harsh impact of this traditional practise.

A recent study claims that the practise of swaddling-wrapping a baby's body snugly in a blanket, increases the risk of developing hip abnormalities in babies.

Though this practise has been around for centuries it has been discontinued by some due to the danger of the baby overheating and damaging its joints.  According to the study reports, nine of 10 infants in North America are swaddles in the first six months of life. In the U.K. the demand for swaddling clothes soared by 61 percent.

This study highlights the  fact that the swaddling that helps soothe the infant may in fact elevate the risk of hip abnormalities. Because the manner in which the baby is swaddled with the arms restrained and the legs stretched out, forces the hips to straighten and shift forward, increasing the risk of misalignment. This might result in a higher risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement in later life.

An educational program was conducted in Japan where the grandmothers were encouraged not to swaddle their grandchildren and cautioned against the dangers of hip dislocation. This effort resulted in a 50 per cent reduction of hip dislocation.

According to Professor Nicholas Clarke, of Southampton University Hospital, "Around one in five babies is born with a hip abnormality, with factors such as a breech birth or a family history, recognized risk factors. But mechanical factors after birth also have a role. While many of these cases resolve spontaneously, swaddling may delay this."

Professor Clarke advises that swaddling can be safe provided it prevents the infant's legs from bending up and out at the hips. Parents should not wrap the baby's leg tightly and must not press them together.

This finding was documented in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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