“Have you tried swaddling her?”
If you’re a new mom who is having trouble calming your fussy newborn or getting her to sleep, this is often one of the first questions you’re asked by fellow parents. They might dive headfirst into the benefits of swaddling, as well as which products they swear by — but beware. Swaddles aren’t all created equal, and much like installing a carseat, proper usage is essential to preserving function and safety.
Why swaddle your baby? There are many terrific benefits to swaddling. It creates a “womb like” environment for your baby and helps calm them almost immediately. This can lead to better sleep for both of you! Better sleep for mom and baby is also thought to decrease the risk of postpartum depression and stress, as well as increase the success of breastfeeding and bonding. Allowing your baby to be calm and focused can lead to increased periods of alertness, which is connected to learning, memory, and attention. Many parents report that their babies don’t initially enjoy swaddling and might actually fight it, but many pediatricians will advise you to keep trying. Just like building a house, if you stop at just the frame, you’ll end up with a nonfunctional mess. If you finish the job correctly, though, the end result is impactful and amazing.
What is hip dysplasia? The hip is a “ball and socket joint,” and in babies and children with dislocation of the hip, this joint has formed abnormally. The ball is not stable in the socket and therefore might be more prone to dislocation. Although hip dysplasia can be present at birth, it is possible that it can also develop during baby’s first year. Research has shown that when babies are swaddled tightly around their legs, therefore keeping their hips and knees straight instead of in a more “frog like” formation, they are at a much higher risk of developing hip dysplasia. Since swaddling has increased in popularity here in the United States, it’s vital that parents learn how to swaddle correctly to avoid problems such as hip dysplasia.
What happens if you swaddle incorrectly? Most likely, improper swaddling will simply lead to less effective benefits, such as less sleep for you both. It’s important to note, though, that there can be some more serious impacts. For example, if the swaddle is too loose, your baby can become tangled up in it, which can lead to overheating or even suffocation. In contrast, swaddling too tightly can lead to problems like hip dysplasia as we discussed above.
What’s the solution? Make sure you’re choosing a “hip-healthy” swaddle and follow the steps closely for proper usage. As a former OB/GYN Nurse Educator, I did a lot of heavy research for the safety of my patients, as well as for my own children. Traditional square shaped swaddles are effective, and The Ollie Swaddle is my favorite — especially if your swaddle technique could use some handholding. The Ollie can be used from birth and is one size to grow with your baby. It has easy-to-use velcro tabs that align to support a personalized, healthy fit. It is also made to fit below the shoulders, keeping fabric away from baby’s face and avoiding constraint on the shoulder joints. Their moisture wicking fabric stretches for freedom of joint movement and helps prevent overheating in your baby. Bonus: it even opens at the bottom for easier diaper changes, which saved me in the middle of the night with my boys. Halo SleepSacks are another well-known, “hip-friendly” option — just keep in mind that you’ll have to size up as your baby grows, because they aren’t one size.
Swaddling is an age-old practice that can have many incredible benefits for your baby. Remember that not all swaddles are created equal, and proper usage is essential for safety and function. Always consult with your baby’s pediatrician or a certified pediatric physical therapist if you have any questions regarding swaddling and/or hip dysplasia.