If you’re reading this blog, you might be in the process of receiving a Hip Dysplasia diagnosis for your little one, or perhaps are already on your way through a journey of your own.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip Dysplasia, also known as DDH or Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip, occurs when a baby’s hip joint does not grow normally. It presents when the femoral head (the ball) is not sitting correctly in the acetabulum (the cup shaped socket). It may be moving in and out, or may be completed displaced, however both scenarios mean that the hips will not grow and mature appropriately.
Most of the time, your first entry into the world of Hip Dysplasia will come from a paediatrician or family doctor – either at birth, or at one of the common milestone checks that happen in the first year of your baby’s life. If your healthcare practitioner is concerned upon examination, they will refer on for further testing.
If your little one is under six months of age, they will likely be referred for an ultrasound to confirm diagnosis.
If your little one is over six months of age, they will be likely be referred for an x-ray to confirm diagnosis. You will also be under the care of an orthopaedic specialist.
It took three babies for me to fully appreciate what Hip Dysplasia was all about, and now I feel very passionately about the subject. My first two daughters had their hips checked at birth and at the 6-week check up with uneventful results. When my third daughter, Amelia, was born in 2019, we had the same usual checks done with no visible reasons to be concerned.
At her 6-week paediatrician check I happened to mention to the doctor that her big sister had been a little delayed in reaching her motor milestones. Because of this, he did a thorough check of her hips, and decided to send her for an additional ultrasound just to be safe.
The scan itself was pretty simple and involved Amelia’s hips being scanned gently by the sonographer, both in the 'legs out' position and also in the 'froggy leg' position. Midway through the scan, the technician excused herself and returned with a doctor, which I later found out was because she had some concerns and wanted to get a second opinion on the spot. This doctor advised me that there were indications of hip dysplasia, and recommended that we be referred on to the orthopaedic unit at Westmead Children’s Hospital (Australia). There she went through another round of ultrasounds, before meeting with a hip specialist who officially diagnosed her. Amelia was 11 weeks old at the time and we left the hospital that day with a harness, something that we weren’t expecting and that we knew nothing about.
Because Amelia was diagnosed at 11 weeks old, she was placed in a Rhino Harness instead of a traditional Pavlik Harness. We were told that she must wear it for all naps and her night sleep, to help keep her hips in the correct position while she slept. I was always under the impression that she would wear her harness for 6-12 weeks and that was that – boy was I wrong!
Amelia took to the harness quite well, however it impacted her sleep greatly. She went from sleeping soundly as an infant, to waking every hour thrashing around her crib and not able to get comfortable. The entire family was completely exhausted over the next few weeks.
Amelia in her Rhino brace
We tried to keep bedtime as consistent as possible for her, which meant sticking to our normal routines with white noise, and a sleeping bag that she could move in - for us that was the original Sleepy Hugs sleep sack from Baby Loves Sleep. It was so generous in size that her hip brace could fit, while still giving her access to her little hands. We knew that if she rolled, she could safely flip back and sleep on her tummy too.
We were hoping for the all clear at her next appointment, however Amelia’s follow up ultrasound showed that there were still some issues with her hip measurements - and so the process started again. This time we had to introduce the brace for longer time frame of approximately 16 to 17 hours per day, which was a little more challenging. Fast forward another few months and the same thing happened – it was so hard for us parents to hear, but we kept right on bracing to try and help her hips develop in the healthiest way possible.
Amelia‘s journey continued until she was 15 months old when her specialist decided that her angles had caught up enough that she could go harness free. We now need to do yearly monitoring to ensure that her hips don’t need further treatment in the future.
We were so lucky that our Baby Loves Sleep suits were able to last all the way through to the end of her hip journey – and now there are even more options available for hippy babies, with the unique range of Hip Dysplasia Sleeping Bags launching this month!
Things to know about Hip Dysplasia
There are so many things I wish I’d known before our Hip Dysplasia story began.
Here are some of my top tips for parents who are just starting journeys of their own:
Hip Dysplasia is developmental
Remember to get your baby’s hips checked at every paediatrician appointment and baby milestone check. Just because your baby passed the newborn screening does not mean that their hips won’t change in the coming months. Hip Dysplasia can occur at any time during development.
Know the signs for Hip Dysplasia
While some forms of Hip Dysplasia can have no symptoms at all, there are some symptoms that are worth investigating. Uneven creases in the legs, clicky hips, delayed motor milestones, limping, or different leg lengths can all be signs to watch out for.
Hip Dysplasia can affect all babies
DDH does not just affect first-born children. If you do a quick google search, you’ll find that the condition can be quite common in first-borns, however it was my third daughter who was diagnosed. Be sure to have a medical professional perform hip checks on all of your babies as they grow.
No Two Journeys are the same
Just as each baby is different, so too are their hip journeys. Some babies will have a very short journey in a harness, where a 6-12 week correction period is all that is needed. Others will have a longer journey in the brace, and some may even require surgery depending on the severity of the hip issues.
Hip friendly products will be your best friend!
It’s important to look out for products that will make your journey easier. I loved finding clothing that would fit well either under or over her harness comfortably, particularly in Winter to help prevent chafing behind the brace. Finding a good quality baby sleeping bag was also a must-have for me, as many baby sleeping bags were far too narrow in the leg area and restrictive to accommodate a hip harness.
The journey can be quite isolating at times. Those early months can be quite challenging as you all adjust to your new normal, and it’s okay for you to be sad that you didn’t have the newborn experience that you envisioned. The good thing is that babies and children are amazingly resilient, and they won’t remember this part of their childhood at all. You’re doing an amazing job helping them on their way to healthy hips – well done, you! There are also lots of online groups out there that are full of support and resources, so make sure you remember that you are not alone.
Has your little one been diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip? What did you find the most useful for your journey?