Children's Health

Study questions safety of swaddling technique in infants



There’s concern among Australian doctors over the rise of a “clicky hip” syndrome in infants that could lead to joint problems later in life. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia indicated that swaddling, a popular soothing method used by parents, could be behind the rise.

Swaddling calls for the infant to be tightly wrapped in a blanket so their limbs are restrained and unable to move. Largely hailed as means to calm an upset baby and reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the technique is now being called into question, reported.

“There is a growing concern among the orthopedic fraternity in North America, the UK and Australia that a resurgence in the popularity of swaddling, including the increased use of ‘swaddling cocoons’ places children at risk of late diagnosed DDH [developmental dysplasia of the hip],” study authors wrote, according to

Researchers found an increase in late diagnosed developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), with the rate rising from 3.5 percent in babes born between 1988 to 2003, to 11.5 percent of all DDH cases in babies born between 2003 to 2009.

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DDH is diagnosed when the hip socket is shallow meaning that the ball of the thighbone cannot fit firmly into the socket. In most severe cases the head of the femur is completely out of the socket, while in mild cases the head of the femur is loose in the socket, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Symptoms can include legs of different lengths, uneven skin folds on the thigh, less mobility or flexibility on one side, limping toe walking or waddling duck-like gate. DDH can usually be corrected with use of a brace or harness.

Study authors concluded that babies need to be able to move their legs naturally and freely, with the ability to bend them in a ‘froglike’ position, reported.