Wrapping a blanket around your infant and turning him or her into a "baby burrito" doesn't just make for an adorable photo — proper swaddling is actually an important way to avoid hip dysplasia, a condition that can cause hip problems later in life.
But did you know there's a right and a wrong way to swaddle? Dr. Harry Kim, the director of research at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children's Center for Excellence in Hip, explains more about how to swaddle correctly, along with what parents should know about developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH).
What is DDH?
There are two types: when there is a dislocation of the hip (the ball is completely outside the socket) and when there is an inadequate coverage of the ball by the socket.
When can my baby develop DDH?
Frustratingly, it can occur at pretty much any time: before, during, and after birth, or even into early childhood.
How is it diagnosed?
In most patients, the diagnosis of DDH is made during the first year of life with neonatal and perinatal exams followed by a hip ultrasound. Sometimes, the signs of DDH are subtle and go unnoticed until walking age or adolescence, when hip pain occurs.
What are some possible causes?
Generally, it's unknown why some children develop DDH. It could be genetic, though, as children with a family history of the hip condition are more likely to have DDH than those whose lineage doesn't. Studies have also shown that if a baby is swaddled incorrectly, it could lead to DDH.
So what's the right way to swaddle my baby?
Wrap the blanket around the upper part of the baby's body while keeping the legs free to move and kick.
What's the wrong way to do it?
The baby’s legs should not be wrapped straight and tight with the blanket — this could create abnormal stresses and pressures to the hip when the child tries to fight against the swaddling. Dr. Kim points out that in young babies, everything is very moldable, stretchable, and soft. Keeping the legs free while in a swaddle allows the baby's hips to develop normally.
Learn more from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children about hip dysplasia here, and watch the video to make sure you're swaddling like a pro.