For new parents it’s crucial to understand the importance of safely swaddling a newborn. Not only is swaddling a great source of comfort for infants but it also helps to keep them warm and toasty until their internal thermostat kicks in. However, there are risks associated with improperly swaddling a newborn, including hip dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip joint where the top of the thigh bone is not held firmly in the socket of the hip. The main cause of this condition comes from tightly wrapping an infant’s legs straight down rather than leaving enough room for leg movement. Although hip dysyplasia is fairly common at birth, continued use of an incorrect swaddling technique puts your newborn at risk for a life of painful joint movement.

According the Internal Hip Dysplasia Institute, mothers should use the following techniques when swaddling a baby:

  • Swaddle the baby on a square blanket. Place the baby’s head above the middle of one edge, tuck the right arm down and fold the right side of the blanket over the baby between the left arm and under the left side. Then tuck the left arm down and fold the left edge of the blanket over the baby and under the right side. Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket up and loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby.
  • Swaddle a baby using the diamond shape technique. Fold one corner of a square blanket down and place the baby with its head in the center above the folded corner. Straighten the right arm and fold the right corner of the blanket over the baby between the left arm and under the left side. Then tuck the left arm down and fold the left corner of the blanket over the baby and under the right side. Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby. Legs should be able to bend up and out. When using a commercial swaddling blanket, make sure it is loose around the baby’s hips and legs.

To reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome, parents should place babies on their backs to sleep and keep loose bedding and soft objects out of the crib.

American Academy of Pediatrics News, September 2011

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.