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Experts call for a change in the popular culture of swaddling.

Australia’s increasing incidence of hip dysplasia in infants has orthopaedic surgeons and health promotion charity Healthy Hips Australia calling for a change in the popular culture of swaddling.

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a common condition that health professionals aim to diagnose early in babies. It can result in months — and in some cases years — of medical treatment. Left undiagnosed, it’s one of the leading causes of early-onset arthritis of the hip. Despite this, parent awareness of DDH and factors influencing it in Australia is limited.

Sarah Twomey, Founder of Healthy Hips Australia, and International Advisor to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, explains that there are many benefits to swaddling during the first months of life, but wrapping babies too tightly could be doing more harm than good.

“It provides security and comfort and aides in settling and establishing sleep patterns. However, research indicates swaddling can increase the risk for developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). DDH is a common childhood condition where the hip joint does not fit in the ‘normal’ position due to abnormal development and/or lack of growth of the joint’s ball and socket.”

hips

Sarah says “When swaddling your baby, you should allow room around the hips for movement.  The legs should be free to move into the natural frog position.”

Sarah pre-empts the ‘fear-mongering’ response to this change in recommendation from health professionals. She says, “I was bewildered when my eldest daughter’s two-month stint in a hip harness turned into a two-year ordeal”. While her youngest daughter’s journey was less stressful, Sarah has become all too familiar with the need to assist hip dysplasia-affected families who are overwhelmed and uninformed about the condition. “Even as someone who works in the healthcare system, I found it hard to navigate the experience of DDH with my children. That inspired me to launch Healthy Hips Australia.”

Patron of Healthy Hips Australia, Bruce Foster, applauds the promotion of safe swaddling for healthy hip development, as a part of the hip dysplasia awareness initiative being undertaken by Healthy Hips Australia. As the current deputy director of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, member of the medical board for the International Hip Dysplasia Institute and former Chairperson of the Australian Paediatric Society, Bruce is all too familiar of the impact of hip dysplasia on the lives of infants and their parents.

Signs and symptoms

  • Clunk or click when moving hip
  • Uneven thigh creases
  • Crooked buttock crease
  • Legs difficult to spread apart
  • Weight off to one side when sitting
  • Different leg length
  • Avoid weight bearing
  • Walking on tippy toes on one side
  • Limping when walking

Share your comments below.

Image via Healthy Hips Australia

  • I wasn’t aware of the link to adult hip arthritis.

    Reply

  • My kids never really liked being swaddled, and i never did it very tight

    Reply

  • Swaddling has been around for so long. I think though as lots of things they bring all these new you beaut ideas when a good old baby blanket would do the trick and if anything like me they could still move in it to an extent. The whole idea I always thought was to help them to get to sleep, so you would wrap them with their arms in by their side & by the time they were awake mine had their arms out. I never really worried about their legs as when I put them down to sleep I would put a sheet or blanket from their waist down over them & tuck it firm under the bassinet or cot mattress. That way they could always move their legs to an extent.

    Reply

  • Many thanks for the article Mouth of Mums. Healthy Hips Australia is running this swaddling for healthy hip development awareness campaign as part of a greater hip dysplasia awareness initiative. We also offer support services for those impacted by the condition. Please see the Healthy Hips Australia website for more details.

    Reply

  • I think the new zip up pouches are more of a concern than wrap swaddling. They are so tight the bub can’t move. When you wrap you tend to wrap the upper part of the bub firmly and the lower a little looser.

    Reply

  • There has been quite a few warnings about this over the years. Mums used to swaddle their babies too tightly. A relative of mine was born with a dislocated hip. It was corected by putting her in 2 towelling nappies.

    Reply

  • interesting that they have made the link for swaddling.

    Reply

  • My daughter had very mild hip displaycia and had a brace on for 6 weeks.

    Reply

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