Swaddling prompts fears of developmental hip problems

The swaddling of infants used to be an almost universal practice, but fell out of favour in many parts of the world.

The technique, which involves the binding or bundling of babies in blankets with their arms restrained and legs stretched out, has recently become fashionable again because of its perceived calming effects, according to Professor Nicholas Clarke, of Southampton University Hospital.

Nine out of 10 infants in North America are now swaddled in the first six months of life and demand for swaddling clothes soared by 61% in the UK between 2010 and 2011, he wrote.

But Professor Clarke pointed to a growing body of evidence to show swaddling is linked to a heightened risk of developmental hip abnormalities.

“This is because it forces the hips to straighten and shift forward, risking the potential for misalignment, and this in turn is associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement in middle age,”