Swaddling babies too tightly ‘can harm hips’ says professor

Iain Curry

A BRITISH professor has warned parents against swaddling babies, as it was damaging to developing hips.

University Hospital Southampton Professor Nicholas Clarke said to allow for healthy hip development, legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips.

"This position allows for natural development of the hip joints," he wrote in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

"The baby's legs should not be tightly wrapped in extension and pressed together."

Mooloolaba mum Carmen Wells swaddled her five-month-old daughter, Peyton, for about four weeks, before moving onto a swaddle suit.

"She likes being wrapped, likes feeling snug," she said.

"Swaddling is creating the same comfort they had in the womb."

But Mrs Wells said she always followed swaddling guidelines, letting Peyton still move her legs.

"No one should be wrapping their babies tightly," she said.

"But it's (Prof Clarke's article) scaring some mothers into thinking they're doing something wrong."

SIDS and Kids Australia's safe wrapping guidelines say the swaddle needs to be firm, but not too tight.

"Techniques that use tight wrapping with legs straight and together increase the risk of abnormal hip development," they said.

SIDS and Kids also advise allowing for hip and chest wall expansion.

Sunshine Coast Private Hospital midwife Cath Williams said swaddling techniques were shown in antenatal classes and after birth.

"A lot of babies love being wrapped," she said.

Ms Williams said the hospital's special care nursery babies were wrapped in flexed positions, not straight, as it reduced pain.

"But full-term babies have good muscle tone; they bring their legs up, so they're in the bent position anyway," she said.

Ms Williams said parents not only needed to take care when wrapping their babies, but also putting them in "carrying devices" as well.

"Wrapping babies and putting them in slings, they're more likely to get overheated," she said.

"The parents don't see their faces and they're so flexed their chests don't expand.

"Babies have died from that."

Safe wrapping


  • Suggested fabrics: muslin, light cotton sheet or wrap
  • Wrap needs to be firm, but not too tight. Loose wraps can cover baby's head and face
  • Wrapping legs straight and together increases risk of abnormal hip development
  • Do not wrap baby higher than the shoulders
  • Allow for hip and chest wall expansion


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