Swaddling babies is the practice of wrapping babies from the shoulders down in a blanket. Many parents want to learn how to swaddle their babies, because at first glance, it certainly looks like origami! But rest assured, you too can become a swaddling pro.
The idea is to calm the baby by creating a restrictive environment similar to the one they experienced in utero. Some people believe it may help babies to settle, and allow them to feel safe. Swaddling was traditionally used in a number of cultures, but fell out of favour when the link between hip dysplasia was first identified. Swaddling has recently come back into fashion as a way of calming colicky and unsettled babies, which has led to an increased need for raised awareness of safe swaddling practices.
Swaddling is most common for newborn babies, and many parents stop using this technique when their baby is around a month old. Most experts recommend stopping by the time your baby is two months old, because this is around the time some start to rollover. Sleeping on your front in a swaddling position can be dangerous, which is why experts recommend stopping before your baby rolls over for the first time.
Swaddling And Hip Dysplasia
Newborn babies naturally adopt a ‘frog' position, with their knees bent and their hips open. This position is thought to aid the optimum development of the ball and socket hip joints. Hip healthy swaddling is thought to encourage healthy development.
Traditionally, however, swaddling meant tightly wrapping a baby's legs into an unnatural position. The legs would usually be extended and together when wrapped, meaning the baby's hip sockets were in an unnatural development. It soon became apparent that this practice was increasing the risk of hip dysplasia developing.
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute state that “Swaddling infants with the hips and knees in an extended position increases the risk of hip dysplasia and dislocation. It is the recommendation of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute that infant hips should be positioned in slight flexion and abduction during swaddling. The knees should also be maintained in slight flexion. Additional free movement in the direction of hip flexion and abduction may have some benefit.”
5 Tips For Safe Swaddling
To safely swaddle your baby, allowing for natural hip positioning, you could try the diamond method detailed below:
1. Place a blanket on the floor in a diamond shape.
2. Fold the top corner down, and lie your baby with his shoulders across the flat edge.
3. Draw one top corner across your baby, and tuck it under his bottom.
4. Draw the bottom corner up gently and tuck it in. Your baby should be able to keep his legs in the fetal position, rather than having them in an unnatural extended position.
5. Draw the remaining corner across your baby, and tuck it in near your baby's neck.
To Swaddle Or Not To Swaddle?
Tightly swaddling your baby can not only lead to hip dysplasia, but overheating if excessive blankets are used. Overheating can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Some healthcare professionals warn against swaddling because of the apparent risks, but others are happy to recommend safe swaddling as it is believed that this can reduce the risks. Like anything related to parenting, do what works for you, but always follow safety guidelines.
How To Swaddle A Baby Safely
For more information on swaddling and hip dysplasia, visit the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. See below for a video on safe swaddling.