What happens if you swaddle a baby wrong?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

Swaddling a baby in the wrong way, specifically with their legs extended and pressed together, can potentially lead to a condition called developmental dysplasia of the hips (DDH). DDH occurs when the hip joint is not properly formed or aligned, and swaddling incorrectly can contribute to this problem.

Swaddling has become increasingly popular in recent years as a technique to calm and soothe babies. When done correctly, it can provide a sense of security for the baby and promote better sleep. However, it is crucial to understand the proper technique to ensure the baby’s safety and healthy development.

The issue with swaddling a baby with their legs extended and pressed together is that it places the hips in a straight and extended position. This position can potentially put excessive pressure on the hip joints and limit their range of motion. In infants, the hip joints are still maturing, and incorrect swaddling can interfere with this natural development.

To swaddle a baby properly and minimize the risk of hip problems, it is recommended to follow these guidelines:

1. Allow room for the legs: When swaddling, leave enough space for the baby’s legs to move freely and ensure that the hips are in a slightly flexed position. This allows for proper hip development and reduces the risk of DDH.

2. Use a swaddle blanket or wrap specifically designed for infants: These products are typically designed to provide a snug fit around the baby’s torso while allowing enough room for hip movement.

3. Avoid over-tightening: It is important not to wrap the swaddle blanket too tightly around the baby’s body, as this can restrict movement and potentially lead to hip issues.

4. Monitor the baby’s comfort: Pay attention to the baby’s cues and make sure they are not showing signs of discomfort or distress while being swaddled. If the baby seems uncomfortable or fussy, it may be necessary to adjust the swaddle or try other soothing techniques.

It is worth noting that swaddling should not be used once a baby begins to show signs of rolling over independently. At this stage, swaddling can increase the risk of suffocation or injury. It is essential to transition to other sleep practices that ensure the baby’s safety.

Swaddling a baby incorrectly, particularly by extending and pressing their legs together, can potentially lead to developmental dysplasia of the hips. To avoid this, it is crucial to follow proper swaddling techniques that allow for hip movement and maintain the baby’s comfort and safety. Always consult with a healthcare provider for guidance on the best practices for your specific situation.