Some doctors warn that swaddles may cause hip dysplasia in babies. Indeed, cultures using ancient methods of swaddling (with rigid, fully straightened legs, tightly bound with blankets or ropes) have more infant and baby hip dysplasia and adult hip arthritis.

Fortunately, there have been no reports of increased baby hip dysplasia from swaddle over the past decade, despite millions of infants having been swaddled. America’s top pediatric hip experts, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, and the International Hip Dysplasia Institute all encourage parents to swaddle…but only when it is done correctly.

Is There a Wrong Way to Swaddle?

The key is to not swaddle the legs tightly together, like a cigar. “Hip-healthy” wrapping holds the arms very snug but lets the knees bend, and the hips easily flex and open. (Happiest Baby's hip-safe SNOO Sack, a.k.a. the 5-second swaddle, pictured above) takes the guesswork out of it!)

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Babies:

Although the exact cause of hip dysplasia in babies is still unknown, the risk of developing hip dysplasia in babies are higher in these instances:

  • Babies with a family history of hip dysplasia
  • A womb position that increases pressure on the hips
  • Improper positioning (e.g. unsafe swaddling and cradling)
  • Breech baby delivery
  • Club foot
  • Torticollis
  • A hip click in a newborn noted during a physical exam

Note: If your baby has a known hip risk factor, ask the doctor if you should use a triple diaper to keep your baby’s hips open for extra protection vs. hip dysplasia in babies. In fact, according to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, babies are 12 times more likely to exhibit signs of hip dysplasia when there is a family history of it.

Final Thoughts: Can Swaddling Cause Hip Dysplasia?

Although improper swaddling can increase the risk of hip dysplasia in babies under 1 year (due to the softness of their joints and bones), the proper swaddling technique will promote healthy hip development and decrease the risk for hip dysplasia. [Watch a safe and easy-to-remember swaddling method called the “DUDU” wrap in The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD]. But if you want to take the guesswork out of swaddling, the Sleepea Swaddle guarantees a safe swaddle in seconds. Learn more.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.