Swaddling is the name given to the practice of wrapping babies in a cloth or thin blanket, with the aim of pacifying or calming them. Not everyone agrees with swaddling, studies have shown that it can be linked to:
· an increased risk of cot death
· a reduction in breastfeeding at birth
· an increase in early weight loss
· Improper swaddling can also lead to instability and dislocation of the hip, a condition known as hip dysplasia
Hip dysplasia results when the top of the femur bone is not properly located in the hip socket or is loose in the hip socket. The condition is most common in breech birth babies, firstborn girls and when there is a genetic predisposition or family history of the dysplasia. If diagnosed early and with proper care, this condition can usually be treated. However, hip dysplasia often goes undiagnosed and can lead to early onset of adult arthritis of the hips with hip replacement at a young age.
To promote healthy hips, the baby should be wrapped so that the legs are able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural and proper development of the hip joints. When swaddling baby, avoid stretching out the legs straight or pressing them together.
Some parents choose to wrap their babies in sleeping bags specifically designed for swaddling, instead of using a simple cloth or blanket. Commercial products for swaddling should have a loose pouch or sack for the baby’s legs and feet, allowing plenty of hip movement. However, even some of these commercial products can confine the legs if they are tightened around the thighs.
It's especially important to allow the hips to spread apart and bend up. In the womb the legs are in a foetal position with the legs bent up across each other. Sudden straightening of the legs to a standing position can loosen the joints and damage the soft cartilage of the socket.
To find out more parent friendly information please download our guide to hip healthy swaddling visit International Hip Dysplasia Institute where you will find a video and information leaflet about hip healthy swaddling:
For advice about treatment and caring for a child with hip dysplasia please call the STEPS helpline on 01925 750271 or email