March 13, 2012

New Swaddling Trend Causing Hip Problems

A growing trend for mothers is to wrap their babies tightly in slings to wear around their chest, but a new study says it may be causing hip problems.

A children's surgeon at Southampton General Hospital warned that the practice of full swaddling, where both the arms and legs are wrapped up, is causing an increase in hip problems.

Babies hip joints are loosened by hormones released by their mother during labor to ease their birth.

However, swaddling forcibly straightens the babies legs for the first three to four moths of life, leaving them unable to flex and strengthen their weakened joints.

Professor Nicholas Clarke, a consultant orthopedic surgeon, said swaddling is causing a rising number of cases of hip dysplasia.

“This form of swaddling used to be very commonly used across the world but, with the help of major educational programs such as the one used to eliminate the problem in Japan in the 1980s, it was all but eradicated and cases reduced drastically," Clarke said while speaking to mark Baby Hip Health Week.

“Now, I and my colleagues across the UK and in America are witnessing its revival, with swaddlers being advertised on the internet that tightly wrap babies. For the hips, that is exactly what you don´t want to happen.”

He said that up to 100 babies are screened at Southhampton General Hospital's hip clinic weekly, and they are seeing swaddling-related incidences increase.

Treatment can be successful in 85 percent of babies, but some will suffer permanent damage.  Treatment involves fitting a harness to keep the legs bent up day and night for six weeks.

Clark said that although many cases of hip dysplasia are down, swaddling is becoming an increasingly prevalent cause once again.

He believes parents are no longer distinguishing between what is right and what presents a danger to their babies.

“I advocate swaddling in the right and safe way, which means ensuring babies are not rigidly wrapped but have enough room to bend their legs — they don´t need to have their legs straightened as there is plenty of time to stretch before they start to walk,” he explained.

“But, and this is worrying the orthopedic community, it seems to be increasingly fashionable among parents to follow the re-emerging trend of tight swaddling.”


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