Risky wrap: dangers of swaddling babies

FRESNO, Calif.

Haley Marchsteiner is a bubbly, 6-year-old. She laughs and plays games, and 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," Haley told Action News.

Haley was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at 18 months -- all because of something her mom did when she was a baby.

"I swaddled her tight trying to comfort her," Melissa Hord, Haley's mom, told Action News.

"Tight swaddling with the legs out straight can actually dislocate a baby's hips," Charles Price, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Arnold Palmer Institute, told Action News.

Dr. Price says it's a big problem, and with help from Larry the Cable Guy, he's spreading the word. Larry's son was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at just a few days old.

"Parents, the first time they hear the word, is when the doctor tells them about it," Dr. Price said.

Hip dysplasia, a looseness of the hip joint, is the most common abnormality in newborns, affecting as many as one in every 20 infants. Studies show swaddling can reduce crying, and help 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. It definitely affects you as far as pain, limited activities, limping and other things," Dr. Price said.

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, Haley's had two surgeries to correct her hips. Melissa hopes new parents can learn from her mistakes.

"If I had known that, who knows what could have happened," Melissa said.

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

"I want to play a lot, because I haven't got to play a lot when I was in the cast," Haley told Action News.

Dr. Price runs the International Hip Dysplasia Institute in Orlando, Florida. Larry the Cable Guy and his wife are major sponsors in the effort to promote early diagnosis and prevention. For more information on how to properly swaddle your baby, visit hipdysplasia.org.

Charles Price, M.D.
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute

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