Do cloth nappies hinder baby’s development and hip health?

If you’ve ever seen a little toddler walking along with a big old cloth nappy on, you might have wondered if the extra bulk is hindering them. After all, new walkers tend to look cumbersome even without the extra padding! 

Thankfully, concerns around cloth nappies causing issues for baby’s physical development and hip health are nothing to worry about. Today we’re sharing research and experiences of cloth nappy parents to show that cloth nappies can actually be beneficial for development. 

Cloth nappies and hip dysplasia

One of the earliest potential issues with a baby’s physical development is hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia, which is officially known as development dysplasia of the hip, is a condition in which the "ball and socket" joint of the hip does not properly form in babies and young children. The hip joint is therefore loose and can dislocate more easily. 

Hip dysplasia tends to be genetic, but can in part be caused by frequent or early incorrect positioning of the baby’s hip joint. Some of this comes from natural causes like, for example, babies in a breech position, but can also be partly caused after birth by, for example, poor positioning when carrying a baby in a sling or swaddling baby’s legs too tightly. 

Using cloth nappies actually helps encourage babies hips into the correct position for healthy development, with the extra bulk lifting their legs up and forward. That’s not to say that using disposable nappies can cause hip problems for babies, but using cloth nappies could be one factor that helps encourage healthy growth.

In fact, bulky nappies are so helpful that some doctors encourage parents of children with hip dysplasia to use cloth nappies (or two disposable nappies) to bring the hips into alignment.

You can learn more about hip dysplasia through the NHS website or the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

Cloth nappies and physical milestones

There is a myth out there that cloth nappies can slow down or prevent babies from hitting normal physical milestones like rolling, crawling and walking. Thankfully, there’s no good evidence that cloth nappies cause major or long lasting developmental delays. The only study on this topic concluded that there was little difference between disposable and cloth nappies, but that both types of nappy hinder movement compared to a naked baby. That means the most important thing is to make sure that your little one is getting some nappy free time each day.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that before the introduction of disposable nappies, all babies were in bulky terry nappies. If you ask anyone who wore cloth nappies as a baby, they’ll likely tell you that it hasn’t caused them any physical problems. In fact, if you’ve ever seen a new walker fall on their bottom, you might argue that the extra padding of a cloth nappy is helpful for preventing bruises!

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