Swaddling warning warranted
Challenge swaddling, by saying if done incorrectly it has the potential to increase the risk of hip dysplasia, and you tend to provoke a response that is dismissive of the professionals raising the warning.
As a parent, health professional, advocate for hip dysplasia, and Founder of Healthy Hips Australia, I endorse the swaddling warning in the effort to raise awareness for the impact that incorrect swaddling is having on the increasing incidence of hip dysplasia in countries where swaddling is popular.
My message to those dismissing the warning, and all parents in general:
Dear Parents (both current and future),
We learn on the job as we go. Every child is different, and each parent too. Some parts of parenting are simple and enjoyable, others are down right hard, even smelly. We strive to give our best, sometimes trial and error or gut instinct is the way to go but, other times, listening to the ‘experts’ is best. Before you say, “but the experts keep changing the rules” – yes, they do. Experts are human too, and remember many are parents as well; they advise what it best practice now, but what is ‘best’ changes through research and learning. I write this as a parent of two, occupational therapist and advocate for raising awareness for hip dysplasia and the impact the popular culture of swaddling has on this condition.
I am not telling you to stop swaddling; I loved swaddling both my girls. Many a night, or should I say early hour of the morning, swaddling soothed my girls (and I). Swaddling has been tried and tested to provide security, comfort, aid settling and help establish sleep patterns. It’s proven to aid in the reduction of the risk of sudden infant death (SIDS) syndrome as well.
Swaddle but allow for healthy hip development
Along with learning how to settle them, burp them, change a poo explosion, reduce the risk of SIDS, and navigate you way through the breast versus bottle or controlled crying debates, you also need to know about developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). You need to know the risk factors for it, the potential signs and symptoms of it and the preventative measures you can take to decrease the risk of your bundle of joy getting it.
The causes of DDH aren’t fully known, it is developmental therefore it is not always present at birth. Add to the mix that it is hard to detect and referred to as a silent condition, as there may be no obvious signs and symptoms, and it’s no wonder many still say, “I thought only dogs got that”. In 2008, the Royal Childrens Hospital stated DDH was the fourth most common reported birth defect in Victoria. Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeons are now saying that since 2013, there has been a threefold increase in the incidence of the condition.
This isn’t an exercise to provoke fear
Despite my background as an occupational therapist, I was bewildered when my daughter Eve’s two-month stint in a hip harness turned into a two-year ordeal. While my youngest daughter Maya’s journey was less stressful, I’ve become all too familiar with the need to assist hip dysplasia-affected families. 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.
There has been some recent media attention about the impact of swaddling on the risk of hip dysplasia but this information isn’t new. Research has shown for some time that some swaddling methods can leave fabric too tight around babies’ legs, which increases the risk of hip dysplasia. A safe swaddling education program in Japan, in 1975, saw the reported incidence of infant hip dislocation drop from 3.5% to less than 0.2% following the initiative.
Knowledge is power
Hip dysplasia impacts people across the lifespan; it is the most common cause of hip arthritis in young women. Untreated the hip joint can deteriorate until a total hip replacement is required. Early diagnosis yields the most favourable outcome. Read up on hip dysplasia and be proactive in discussing it with your Doctor if you have concerns.
The experts have your child’s best interests at heart
We can’t eliminate DDH altogether; genetics plays a factor, as does position within the womb. Accept that more research into what is 'best', is needed, and be prepared to listen to what the experts have to say on this one.
Help put hip dysplasia on the international agenda
Is DDH life threatening? No. Could your child suffer from a more serious condition? Yes.
Ask a parent, of a child with hip dysplasia, whether they felt their bonding, and memories of what ‘should’ have be an innocent childhood was impacted and YES will be the answer 99% of the time. Our kids are resilient. Most close the chapter on this condition and go onto lead unaffected lives but, please, listen to the expert advice. Swaddle right, not tight.
For more information about hip dysplasia and safe swaddling; including links to recommendations from other organisations about this subject:
Written: November 2015. Revised February 2016.
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. Every effort is made to ensure this information is up to date, accurate and easy to understand. Healthy Hips Australia accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading. This can be reproduce with acknowledgement to Healthy Hips Australia. Handouts are available to download free of charge at www.healthyhipsaustralia.org.au