My story starts just like most others in the world of developmental hip dysplasia – I didn’t know it existed. I had heard of clicky hips vaguely but that was about it. Little did I know that “clicky hips” meant a whole new world – a new world of parenting, of loving , of learning.
Hi, my name is Lynette. I have three gorgeous children – Elissa (Miss 6), Harrison (Mr 3) and Jackson (Mr 1.5). My venture into the world of DDH began with Mr 1.5 – Jack. My unexpected miracle baby. After fertility issues and ICSI IVF procedures with my first two children, Jack was a little surprise that was granted to our lives. My pregnancy was normal, his growth was normal and his birth was easy. I was smiling! Before we left the hospital our Doctor noticed that both of his hips were “clicky” and that he would require an ultrasound at 6 weeks of age, and we were told that “he would probably be OK by then”. No other tips or information was given to us. Off home we went, happy, and we didn’t change anything from how we had done it with our previous children – tight swaddles, disposable nappies, narrow based Baby Bjorn carrier for occasions.
Oh how I wish I could go back to me and three day old Jack and give us some advice!
At our 6 week ultra-sound it was discovered that Jack’s right hip had rectified itself, but his left hip was “borderline” and that he would require immediate bracing. This needed to be done in Perth. Did I mention that we are a 7 hour drive or $250 each plane flight from Perth? We were admitted through Princess Margaret Children’s Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, and they were so lovely. A country girl in the big city however is a complete other story – LOL!!
I don’t think I was really ready for my journey that was about to begin. Jack was fitted with a Correctio brace that he had to wear 23 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he cried and cried and cried. His clothes wouldn’t fit on over the top. He didn’t fit in the car seat of the hire car and he cried and cried and cried. I tried to breastfeed him and it was so awkward and he cried and cried and cried. We got home to Kalgoorlie and I fed him and put him to bed. He looked so awkward, laying on his back with his legs up and splayed out. That night he didn’t sleep. Not in his bed anyway. I sat up in the arm chair and he slept on my chest. I cried. I was tired and my neck stiff. My other two children didn’t understand why I was so tired and cranky and had such a short fuse.
It was winter. The Orthotics specialist who had fitted the brace said that the brace needed to go on under his clothes. I had nothing that would fit over the brace. In an attempt to make pants I cut up a pair of Elissa’s tights. He looked like such a sweet angel – dressed in rags. I was sad because he wasn’t handsome anymore. That morning a friend looked after Elissa and Harrison while Jack and I popped off to the shops for a new car seat that he would fit in and some new clothes. Two hours later and I had a small measure of sanity!! A new car seat meant we could go places, and some clothes that fit meant he was handsome again! That small accomplishment – even though it sounds so vain – was enough to make me stand tall and accept to get on with this and make it work. So what worked for us? Long sleeved clip crotch onesies and BabyLegs legwarmers!
How did we get sleeping and breastfeeding under control? Pillows! My Mum was the one who said, “Of course he will cry on his back. Lay on your back and spread your legs up like that. Can you feel your hip joints and how they over-extend with no support under your knees?” WOW. YES. Yes I can. So I popped a pillow along so that his little legs were supported and – YES! No crying! We have sleep!
Life plodded along for 6 weeks. We were all happy. And I was excited that Jack and I were headed back to Perth for our next Ultrasounds. I was excited because I thought the brace might come off today. Little did I know that no-one had explained to me that a DDH plan was NOT a short-term thing. Our ultrasounds showed good news – his left hip had acceptable angles. I was ecstatic. But the brace had to stay on for another 6 weeks in case of regression. I am sure my face fell then and there. Our Doctor then explained that the following 6 weeks wouldn’t see the end of bracing either. If after this 6 weeks his hips were still fine, the brace would then only need to be worn at night time and naps for another few months. All up our treatment plan would see Jack braced until he was 7 months old.
When I got home from that appointment I made some key life decisions:
- I needed to see an infant physiotherapist – to aid with tummy time and the flat spot he was starting to get on his head.
- I needed a different baby carrier as the Baby Bjorn was just not cutting it – it was so uncomfortable and its narrow base was hurting Jack.
- I needed to carry Jack in a carrier more often to make it a) easier than trying to stuff him in the pram, b) stop people staring at the brace and asking about it, and c) stop his head getting flat.
Seeing the physiotherapist was GREAT! I recommend this to ALL DDH families. Simon came up with some really great and helpful exercises and plans to help Jack develop motor skills normally whilst being in the brace. His core strength came along in leaps and bounds, as did his head and neck control. Our infant health clinic kept Jack admitted right through until he was walking and without the brace. They were simply amazing.
I researched Baby Carriers and was thoroughly BLOWN AWAY by a world of carriers I never knew existed. I had only ever known of the Baby Bjorn as that is what is portrayed in media, and what our only baby store sold. Little did I know how sub-optimal Baby Bjorn carriers are due to their narrow base that does not support the infant’s hips in a healthy position.
Along with this realisation and research came the knowledge of swaddling and disposable nappies, and how babies’ hips work. “Improper swaddling may lead to hip dysplasia or developmental dysplasia of the hip. When in the womb the baby’s legs are in a foetal position with the legs bent up and across each other. Sudden straightening of the legs to a standing position can loosen the joints and damage the soft cartilage of the socket.” – International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
As I said – oh how I wish I could go back to me and three day old Jack and give us some advice!
I WISH that I had used cloth nappies to bulk out his crotch area, or even used a Modern Cloth Nappy over the top of his disposables.
I WISH that I had not swaddled him tightly in a wrap but had used hip friendly swaddles.
I WISH that I had a Babywearing wrap, ring sling or soft structured carrier rather than the narrow based carrier.
I WISH I had discovered “babywearing” and had worn Jack LOTS to keep his legs up into the optimal M position.
Jack was only “borderline” and after 6 weeks of bracing his hips were fine. If ONLY someone had told me to do the things above I am sure that we would have completely avoided bracing and he would have formed his own stable hips by 6 weeks of age.
There are a lot of “I wishes” and “if only’s” there, but you know, life is a journey and fate has its plan for all of us. If I had never been led down the DDH path I would probably still have the Baby Bjorn carrier that is ridiculously uncomfortable and I definitely would not be a public infancy advocate educating new mothers about healthy hips; I would not have created Kalgoorlie-Boulder Babywearers (our local sling group) and certainly I would not be the proud owner of Gold Dust Baby, one of Australia’s Baby Wearing Retailers.
Fast forward to beyond a year. We have had our last lot of X-rays when Jack started walking at 1 year. We have been given a full clearance with no more x-rays needed until he is 2. He is a HAPPY baby who is in no way developmentally delayed – if anything he is making up for those 7 months and is a complete nut job on legs! And I have discovered a way of life that would not have presented itself to me if life had taken me down the other path.
Many people (including pre-DDH me) lump “Babywearing” in with attachment parenting, something seen as an all-or-nothing lifestyle, but that’s just not it. Finding these great carriers outside of popular media has let me, Jack and my family lead an active and inclusive lifestyle. Nothing holds us back!
Gold Dust Baby was born and this has become one of the things in my life that makes me so happy and fills me with a purpose. I am now an educator, not only through Kalgoorlie-Boulder Babywearers, but through parenting groups and Obstetrician-held baby showers. I wish I had been around to tell me to wear my baby in the crucial early months when stable hips are forming, to tell me to keep those legs in the optimal M position as much as possible.
So to all of you out there who are beginning their DDH journey – yes, life gives you lemons – you just need to make some life decisions that will turn those lemons into lemonade, baked citrus tart and maybe a Corona or two! In the end you have been led down this path for a reason. Your job is to get yourself there and if you can take a couple of helpful hints from me to make that easier, then I am so happy that I have been able to share.
Love and BabyLegs and Babywearing!
Gold Dust Baby
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.