Swaddling and Hip Health: Insights from an NICU RN

Swaddling and Hip Health: Insights from an NICU RN

Hip dysplasia is a general term covering infants hip instability, dislocation or structural changes of the hip socket. The joint is normal other than the instability, which allows easy dislocation of the joint. According to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, as many as 1 in 10 newborns has hip instability, with 1 in 100 infants needing treatment for developmental hip dysplasia. If left untreated, infantile hip dysplasia can cause lifelong hip deformities, painful hips, gait issues, and decreased strength. 

Due to the positioning in the womb, there can be more pressure on  hip joints and stretching of the ligaments with breech babies more likely to have hip instability. The hormones relaxin and progesterone produced during labor also affect development of hip dysplasia, as the hormones help soften the mothers ligaments for easier passage through the birth canal. Another major contributing factor is the anatomical difference between infants and adults. As infants hip sockets are made of soft, pliable cartilage (vs. adults hip sockets consisting of hard bone), it is easier for an infant's hip to dislocate or become misaligned. 

Hip dysplasia cannot be 100% prevented, however, there are some things you can do to help. Proper screening with your baby’s health care provider can help prevent long term complications. Proper positioning, especially with swaddling and baby wearing carriers, can help reduce incidence of hip dysplasia. The proper position is a “frog leg” position, allowing the baby's legs to be flexed (bent closer to the baby’s body) and out slightly. The ability to move the legs freely is an added benefit. 

Several swaddling systems offer hip healthy positioning, including the Uni Original Swaddle, Halo Sleep Sacks products, Love to Dream Swaddle Up Hip Harness swaddle, and others. These swaddles allow the proper flexed leg position, as well as leg movement. Of course, swaddling offers additional benefits- reducing startle reflex, helping soothe the infant and promoting proper development. 

In summary, hip dysplasia can be reduced with proper positioning, early screening, and the help of your health care provider. Early detection and treatment can help prevent the lifelong 


International Hip Dysplasia Institute. (2021, January 29). Infant & Child - International Hip Dysplasia Institute. International Hip Dysplasia Institute -. https://hipdysplasia.org/infant-child/

International Hip Dysplasia Institute. (2021b, January 29). Preventing Hip Dysplasia - International Hip Dysplasia Institute. International Hip Dysplasia Institute -. https://hipdysplasia.org/infant-child/preventing-hip-dysplasia/

Back to blog