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Swaddling: Short Term Solution, Long Term Problem?

By Meredith Carroll |


Swaddling is as old as time, but doing it tightly has come back in style recently for the first time in 25 years

If you’re a new parent, chances are strong that you have a love-love relationship with swaddling. Your baby loves being swaddled, your baby sleeps when swaddled, so what’s not love about swaddling?

But is it possible that the long term effects of swaddling are actually harmful?

Yes, according to a children’s surgeon at Southampton General Hospital in the U.K. He says the practice of full swaddling, when the arms and legs are wrapped up, is causing an increase in hip problems, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Nicolas Clarke claims there are a rising number of cases of hip dysplasia as a result of swaddling. “Babies hip joints are loosened by hormones released by the mother during labor to ease their birth. Swaddling, however, forcibly straightens the baby’s legs for the first three to four months of life, leaving them unable to flex and strengthen their weakened joints.”

The practice of tight swaddling has come back in style for the first time in about a quarter of a century. Major educational initiatives helped eradicate the practice for a time, and babies with hip problems were less common until recently. While treatment is available for babies with weakened hips, some will suffer permanent damage.

Prof. Clarke said: “While many cases of hip dysplasia are down to genetics or other conditions, swaddling is becoming an increasingly prevalent cause once again and that is extremely frustrating because it is something parents can control.”

Professor Clarke also said there is a safe way to swaddle, which includes ensuring babies are not too tightly wrapped and have enough room to bend their legs.

How tightly do you swaddle your baby?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “Swaddling: Short Term Solution, Long Term Problem?

  1. paulina says:

    I use the swaddle wraps with a pouch for the legs and velcro tabs to wrap the arms with. My baby can kick and bend her legs all she wants, as long as her arms are contained, she is fine. If I didn’t have a velcro swaddle with me, and used a regular blanked, I’d usually just wrap it around her torso and arms, with her legs free to kick around as needed.

  2. Lo says:

    O please…please…
    I live in a country where the swaddling was the norm and no problems with hip dysplasia have been encountered. It was really encouraged in the first months in order for the baby to “align properly”, to be easier to pick up for feeding for an inexperienced mother and also easier to move the baby. Also since it is a well know fact that the small babies sleep better. Please doctors, go see the world…not just UK and or USA…there are other countries too…babies are born all over the world…

  3. Sarah says:

    Yet another reason “back to sleep” campaign is a little on the crazy side. But the baby on it’s belly after a few weeks and you’ll never have the need to swaddle.

  4. j1luv27 says:

    obviously if your baby turns blue, it’s a little too tight. but newborns are used to being in a confined environment so it comforts them. newborns don’t have control of their movements so if left free to move they can easily scare themselves awake. hip dysplacia? sounds like baby kept mommy up to late and mommy swaddled like she was wrapping a mummy like the painting above hahhaa

  5. B says:

    I disagree with sarah. But how about some background for this one MD in the UK? Other docs have studied this and dismissed it. Let’s see some numbers instead of just one quote.

  6. Jude Strib says:

    We use the Miracle Blanket. It’s perfect and allows the hips room to move.

  7. Lee Ann says:

    I swaddled all my children but I never straightened out their legs to do it like the article suggests. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that.

  8. Nancy says:

    My daughter didn’t like being swaddled. She wanted to kick her legs and move her arms. My mother-in-law would swaddle her and she would throw an intense screaming fit. When I unwrapped her she would calm down. She is 17 years old now and graduates from high school next year.
    My son loved being swaddled but I never swaddled him so tight that he couldn’t move. I always thought that was cruel to do to babies.

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