We called her the 'burrito baby,' because that is what my daughter looked like when she was snuggly swaddled in her blanket as an infant. Like many parents, we swaddled our baby girl, or securely wrapped her in a blanket, at nap time or any time she seemed fussy. And it did seem to instantly calm her. But a new report warns that parents against using this practice, stating that doing so may set kids up for future hip problems later in life.
First of all, if you've never heard of it, I should explain that swaddling is the practice of wrapping a baby snugly in a blanket - similar to how you would fold a burrito (hence our baby's moniker.) The technique is meant to be a tight fit to prevent the flailing of arms and legs that accompanies a baby's crying. And I can attest that - at least with our burrito baby - it seemed to work to calm her and help her relax enough to sleep or rest comfortably. So you can see why swaddling has become so popular among parents as a way to calm babies and help them get to sleep. Studies show that in North America, nine in 10 infants are now swaddled in their first six months after birth.
But a new report from Professor Nicholas Clarke, of Southampton University Hospital in the U.K., states that swaddling may be damaging to a baby's developing hips. In his report, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Clarke warns that tight swaddling can cause hip dysplasia in young babies.
‘Safe swaddling’ with appropriate devices should be promoted because it is recognised that traditional swaddling is a risk factor for DDH [developmental dysplasia of the hip]. In order to allow for healthy hip development, legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural development of the hip joints. The babies’ legs should not be tightly wrapped in extension and pressed together. Commercial products for swaddling should have a loose pouch or sack for the babies’ legs and feet, allowing plenty of hip movement and hip flexion and abduction. "