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Swaddling may lead to hip problems in babies

October 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you pick up any new baby book, it often has a section about the importance of swaddling. But some pediatricians offer a warning about the practice.

Swaddling offers newborns warmth and comfort. Advocates say it mimics the security babies felt inside the womb. Now some doctors warn infants are at risk of developing serious joint problems because of this common practice.

Experts say hip dysplasia is showing up more and more in newborns.

Haley Marchsteiner is a bubbly six-year-old. She laughs and plays games. When things don't go her way, she still tries to have fun even though she can't walk right now.

"I don't like sitting all the time," she said.

Marchsteiner was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at 18 months. It's all because of something her mom, Melissa Hord, did when she was a baby.

"I swaddled her tight, trying to comfort her," said Hord.

"Tight swaddling with the legs out straight can actually dislocate a baby's hips," said Dr. Charles Price, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Studies show swaddling can reduce crying and develop better sleep patterns in fussy babies. But when done wrong, it can do more harm than good.

"Unrecognized hip dysplasia is the most common cause of arthritis in young women," said Price.

To avoid the problem, babies should be wrapped so the legs are able to bend up and out at the hips.

Fresh out of a cast, Marchsteiner has had two surgeries to correct her hips. Hord hopes new parents can learn from her mistakes.

As for Marchsteiner, she can't wait to get out of her chair and onto the playground.

"I wanna play a lot, because I haven't got to play that much when I was in the cast," she said.

Price runs the International Hip Dysplasia Institute in Orlando, Fla. Larry the Cable Guy and his wife are major sponsors in the effort to promote early diagnosis and prevention.

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