Baby hip dysplasia
Motherhood,  My Story,  New Mom

Baby Hip-Dysplasia Journey: Insights that Will Surprise You

Baby Hip-Dysplasia

If you’ve been following my baby’s birth story so far, this post will be the natural next progession of the story because the next challenge through all that failed ECV, scary planned c-section, the next hurdle life throws at us is our baby’s hip condition, baby hip dysplasia.

Due to my baby in frank/extended breech throughout the 3rd trimester, her hip did not form in the normal angle range of the hip socket as it should.

So it’s an additional challenge to the already difficult task of being a new mom.

If I were to plot out how much I’ve been challenged in the span of 2 months, just imagine the learning curve on my graph.

RELATED: The revealing c-section story that will inform you

RELATED: My Shocking ECV Experience and what you need to know

How we found out

It is interesting how from pregnancy to baby’s birth, we move from one specialist doctor to another.

Since my first visit to a doctor during pregnancy, it’s been a year now and the doctor’s visit hasn’t stopped!

When I was pregnant, I would visit my gynae monthly, and after my baby is born, our monthly visits were replaced with a pediatrician.

I wonder what’s the next doctor to visit once our little one outgrows the pediatrician, the dentist perhaps?

So after we’re done with our gynae, it was through the pediatrician who alerted us about the potential risk of our baby having hip-dysplasia, hence we were referred to an orthopedic.

If it weren’t for the pediatrician’s recommendation, we would never have thought there’s any problem.

What is baby hip-dysplasia

“Hip dysplasia is a developmental condition that results in looseness or instability of the baby’s hip when the socket is too shallow for the ball, causing the joint to mold improperly as the baby’s soft cartilage hardens into bones”, according to parents.com

It is not a painful affair for the baby, just an uncomfortable one because she’d need to wear a special harness to keep her hips in the correct angle for a period of time.

What I learned about baby hip dysplasia

Honestly, our baby was 3 months old when we first visited the orthopedic. She was very young, who would have thought she had mild hip-dysplasia?

I mean how could you tell a baby has hip dysplasia anyway? Her legs looks fine, she’s not in pain, she’s a happy lil’ girl.

So here’s what I found out:

No. 1: No obvious signs

There were no signs from the baby unless the doctor does an ultrasound at her hips.

I was really very grateful the pediatrician recommended us to see an orthopedic because we would never have thought of going because, why would we when everything seems alright?

This is where I wonder how many unsuspecting parents out there might not be aware of this.

No. 2: High probability

The probability of a newborn having Developmental Dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is quite high.

“1 out of 6 newborns will have some type of hip instability and 2-3 out of every 1,000 infants will require treatment. “According to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

This is surprising to me because I never knew it’s such a common problem.

I thought it happened on my lil’ girl because she was in a frank/extended position.

so it does not just apply to babies with frank/extended breech.

No. 3: It’s developmental

Even if your newborn does not have hip dysplasia, they may get Developmental Dysplasia of the hip (DDH) from improper care or lack of awareness of hip health for your baby.

So that’s scary because even though my baby is not wearing the harness anymore, she’s not out of the woods.

This is why looking for a baby carrier that supports the baby’s hip and making sure their legs are in the shape of an ‘m’ is sooooo important when wearing your baby.

RELATED: What You Need To Know About Baby Carrier In The 1st Year

No. 4: The causes of baby hip dysplasia

As an adult, you won’t know you have issues related to hip-dysplasia until you are much older like 50s or 60s.

This condition is the common cause of hip arthritis or osteoarthritis, where you experience degenerative bones or inflammations related around the hips.

So some of us might have it and we won’t know it till symptoms show, or we do an x-ray.

I found out about this when I asked “what happens if the baby’s hip angle is just a little off from the supposed location?”

I mean in my mind, just a slight angle wouldn’t be that bad right? So I was dead wrong.

No. 5: Baby hip dysplasia is easy to treat

This condition is super treatable and easy to correct so long as we catch it as early as childbirth.

This is because when in the baby stages, their bones are in the soft cartilage phase, hence having the baby to wear a harness to keep the baby’s hip in the right place will ensure the cartilage hardens into bones in the right angle.

It is the easiest and non-invasive way. Hence the younger the better.

Imagine when you’re older, the bones are pretty much grown and it’ll be impossible to do corrections non-invasively.

My Baby Hip Dysplasia Journey

It was definitely heartbreaking to hear that my lil’ girl need to wear a Pavlik harness until the angle improves.

That means it would take months. No doubt it was a treatable condition, it is not the most comfortable for both parents and baby.

My baby started wearing the Pavlik harness at 3 months old.

I initially delayed it because the doctor said the angle was mild and we could just double diaper her for longer.

We did that for 1 month and there were no changes, and so we started with the Pavlik harness.

Later at 6 months old, we had to change her to an abduction brace because she was starting to break out of the Pavlik harness as she was getting stronger and savvy with her fingers.

And by 12 months, the doctor had an x-ray and finally said she could take off the abduction brace. *yippee!

But this journey is not over yet, because the baby’s hip is still developing, so we have a follow-up x-ray appointment when my lil’ girl is 1 year 6 months to track her progress. *fingers crossed. (will update post then.)

This is the summarized version of what the process was like. The experience of the harness with the baby has been a challenging one.

What it’s like with Pavlik Harness?

The first time putting on the Pavlik harness was challenging. She immediately could feel the restriction to her legs and of course started crying.

We were new parents, so it felt so cruel to put the harness on the fragile lil’ girl. But it was a necessary struggle for her to be better.

Concerns with Pavlik Harness:

  1. We were afraid that wearing the harness would restrict her movement. However since she wore it in her 3rd month, she’s barely crawling, so it did not affect her movement much at all. (phew*)
  2. Changing the diaper would be a hassle. This was true. Each time we changed her diaper, we would need to remove something. However, since our harness had a little hook that could be unhooked from the waist, that was the only thing we needed to remove instead of taking off the whole harness. (To show picture)
  3. Carrying her might be difficult. This was not true after putting on the harness. I was glad that it wasn’t a problem at all, because the harness stuck to her body quite well, when we carry her, it was like normal. The difference was her legs were in a bent position instead.
  4. She would need to wear it all day long. This was true at the beginning. In the first few months, she wore it all day. The only time we took it off was when she took a shower. Later when her angle improved, the doctor advised to wear for 18 hours. Then later she was advised to only wear at night. It just got better from there~
  5. It might chafe her skin. I was worried about her being poked and pricked by the rough velcro pieces. So I made sure to always have another layer of clothing between her skin and harness, be it pants, long socks, or pajama onesie. However, the odd days when she did not have a covered layer didn’t seem to chafe her much. so thank goodness.
baby hip dysplasia
Carry baby like normal

The Pavlick harness in action

What it’s like with Abduction Brace?

By 6 months old, she was upgraded to an abduction brace because the Pavlik harness was no longer effective.

This was because her nimble hands now could unhook the straps that hold her legs in place. And the shoulder strap was loosened because she’s kicking on it. (My baby girl is growing up *tears of joy )

And so I had new concerns:

Concerns with Abduction Brace:

  1. Would the base of the brace be too hard for her back? That was surprisingly the opposite of my concern. In fact, the hardback was better in holding her pelvis in place. It was sturdier and I found it more effective and better than the Pavlik harness. But we couldn’t use this brace any earlier because it had size restrictions. So the earliest we could use was when she’s about 6kg.
  2. Can she move at all? That’s always my concern, but to my surprise, the baby could move better in this. In fact, she could walk in her abduction brace! That’s good news! The only thing I saw her struggle a lot was trying to flip around in the abduction brace. It wasn’t impossible. Just takes extra strength and coordination. Eventually, she figured out how to flip and that was when it became difficult to put it on! XD
  3. It looks complicated, will it be harder to put on? Once again I was surprised how easy it was. The abduction brace only straps to her waist and legs. there’s no shoulder straps like before. So there are lesser things to worry about. and we also don’t have to worry about any ‘settings’ going loose. However, I ran into a problem of her sliding out of her abduction brace. This happens when she wiggles a lot.
baby hip dysplasia
Back view, this is where the baby’s butt fit into that little space.
baby hip dysplasia
Abduction brace front view. The waist strap at the top and the leg straps at the bottom
left and right.

Moving with abduction brace

Baby clothes and the harness /bracer.

Does Pavlik Harness affect how you dress your baby?

Yes, totally.

If I want my lil’ girl to dress fancy, she will not be able to wear a dress in her Pavlik harness because of her shoulder straps, so you’d need to do a two-piece combo outfit with harnesses.

Does Abduction brace affect how you dress your baby?

I feel it affects less for Abduction Brace compared to Pavlik Harness.

There will be no problem to wear a dress with her abduction brace. The dress will hide the brace.

So the abduction brace actually allows more freedom for the parent and the baby~

How about bed time?

Since my girl wears the harness and brace most during bedtimes, how has it affected her sleep?

Well, there were nights when she had bad sleep, but I couldn’t directly attribute it to the harness because she’s going through so much growth spurts in the 1st year.

But I do notice an increase in interrupted sleep in the first few nights of wearing the Pavlik harness. Then later it just went back to normal when she got used to it.

I also stopped swaddling her at that point. Because I didn’t want to add another layer of restriction to her movement.

So I made sure she wears a pajama onesie which had her toes covered up and a glove to keep her fingers warm at night. Here, I could have purchased a sleep sack, which I only did much later.

I was glad she was okay without the swaddle. I also noticed she tends to sleep on her side and sometimes tummy (at this point she already could support and move her head well).

She seemed comfortable and if I were to swaddle her, she wouldn’t be able to get into a comfy position on her own.

When she upgraded to an abduction brace, I added a sleep sack on top of the brace to give her extra warmth.

It was a much larger sleep sack then she’d normally wear, this ensures she has plenty of room in her legs. So not much is affected in terms of clothing at night for the brace.

What’s next?

Well, all is good now, she’s not wearing the harness or brace anymore since 12 months old.

We’re awaiting our next follow-up appointment around February 2021 where she’d get an x-ray to get an accurate reading on the angle of her hips.

So till then, there’s nothing for us to do except to just continue to have good hip-healthy babywearing practice and hope for the best next February. Hopefully, it develops well in the healthy angle range. *fingers crossed.

Shall keep you updated, till then stay safe, love.

RELATED: Planned C-Section Birth Story

RELATED: What ECV was like

Baby Hip-Dysplasia

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