Hip dysplasia is the medical term for instability, or looseness, of the hip joint that affects thousands of children each year. This ranges from mild instability to complete dislocation. Approximately one out of every 20 full-term babies has some hip instability and two or three per thousand will require treatment.
Hip dysplasia is not a “birth defect” because nothing is missing. This looseness is because the mother makes hormones that help ligaments relax during the birth process. Those hormones affect the baby’s hips, and girls seem to be more affected than boys. The birth position may also stretch the hip joints and make them loose.
The biggest risk factors for hip dysplasia are family history and breech position in the womb. One in four babies in the breech position will have some hip dysplasia. One in eight babies will have hip dysplasia if one parent has a history of the condition. Hip dysplasia also tends to affect more girls than boys, especially first born girls, and is more common if the mother is older than 35 years or the birth weight of the baby is more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces.
What many people don’t realize is that swaddling incorrectly can affect your baby’s hips. When swaddling, it is important to leave the hips free to move and not tightly strapped with the legs straight out and together. Let the baby hold his or her hips bent up like they were when the baby was born and allow room for the legs to move freely.
Some parents choose to wrap their babies in SleepSacks specifically designed for swaddling, instead of using a cloth or blanket. Commercial products for swaddling should have a loose pouch or sack for the baby’s legs and feet, allowing plenty of hip movement. However, even some of these commercial products can confine the legs if they are tightened around the thighs. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute approves the HALO® SleepSack® wearable blankets as “Hip Healthy” for your baby as they have sufficient legroom to allow safe swaddling and free movement of the hips and knees.
Dr. Charles T. Price is the Director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI), non-profit effort to improve the health and quality of life of those afflicted with hip dysplasia. He has trained many fellows and residents in the appropriate orthopedic care of children. He is internationally known for his clinical and academic achievements including numerous scientific publications and book chapters on a variety of subjects.
For more information on Hip Dysplasia and Safe Swaddling, visit www.hipdysplasia.org.