Guest Post: Lynette’s Story


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.

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Fitted with the brace at PMH

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!

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Dressed in Elissa’s tights on day 1

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More user friendly attire!  BabyLegs and Snappy Crotches!

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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!

Sleeping with one side propped on a pillow

Sleeping with one side propped on a pillow

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.

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Towels on the floor used for support during Tummy Time

Tummy time

Tummy time

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A session with Simon the physiotherapist

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.

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(International Hip Dysplasia Institute)

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Optimal baby carrying positions – legs held in the M position for healthy hip and spine development

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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.

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(International Hip

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Using our Ergo baby ergonomic carrier on holidays.

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.

Lyn 14Lyn logo

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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.

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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.

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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.


Guest Post: Leah and Michael’s Story


Leah’s Story

Our journey to parenthood

To fully understand our hip journey I have to start from the beginning. Each new complication or celebration just adds a new chapter.

I have always wanted to have a family so I was thrilled when I met my now husband Michael when I was 19. When we decided to start a family, we were told to start fertility treatments straight away as I have a rare medical condition where I don’t ovulate and don’t produce certain hormones. At the age of 16 my uterus was the size of a 6-year-old’s uterus. Michael is 11 years my senior and was also more than ready to become a dad. We were surprised to learn that the medication I needed to make my eggs fertile wasn’t yet available in Australia. Over the 18 months, 100’s of injections and blood tests were required, and I was always the youngest in the fertility clinic. I was constantly faced with judgemental comments about trying for a family and spending so much money on fertility treatments at my age. When the drug that I needed finally came to Australia I had two cancelled cycles as I had too many mature follicles: the risk of multiples greater than twins was too high. On the 3rd cycle I had 4 mature follicles. The risk again was high and we had both decided to focus on something else and have our dreams for a family continue in the background.

I was stunned when 10 days later on that cycle I had a positive pregnancy test. What should have made me unbelievably excited had me in tears from fear and anxiety of a higher order multiple pregnancy and the risks associated. Blood work the next day confirmed a pregnancy. It was still early days and my numbers were still fairly low. I would continue to have blood tests every 2 days to make sure the pregnancy hormone HCG was doubling. Although it was rising and my progesterone level was very high, it wasn’t doubling and I was prepared by the lovely staff that the baby may not have taken or it may be an ectopic pregnancy. I had an ultrasound at just under 6 weeks which showed a yolk sac but no heartbeat yet. My specialist advised me that it could go either way and we would just have to wait. I had been having a bit of cramping and back ache but everyone I talked to said it was normal in early pregnancy. One afternoon the pain began to get worse. I had some pain killers and made it out for dinner. By the time I got home the pain was becoming extreme. I lay down with a heat pack and started to fall asleep although now I think I was falling into unconsciousness. Michael woke me up to ask me something and the pain had become unbearable. I tried to walk to the bathroom but had to crawl on my hands and knees. Michael decided to call an ambulance and I was rushed to hospital.

We nearly lose our baby

When we got to the hospital the doctors attempted to do an ultrasound. This was the most painful experience of my life. They were whispering to each other and just kept saying they could see the blood pumping. They were talking about the amount of blood filling my stomach. I asked half conscious about my baby who still didn’t have a heartbeat or a foetal pole. They said the chances were not good and there was only 30% at best chance the baby would make it. I was rushed in for emergency surgery. When I woke in recovery I was not told anything. Panicking they had given me a hysterectomy I demanded answers from the nurse. He said he wasn’t supposed to tell me anything but he thought my uterus was saved but my ovary and tube was gone. Later I found out that my pregnancy was a rare heterotopic pregnancy (about 1 in 30,000). I had another baby in my right tube but it wasn’t visible on ultrasound due to enlarged ovaries. My tube had ruptured and they had pumped 1.5 litres of blood out of my stomach. I was borderline needing a blood transfusion but had full faith in my amazing specialist. While I was in hospital my HCG levels dropped and I started bleeding. My doctor sadly told me my body was trying to miscarry. The bleeding stopped at around day 3 and I had a small glimmer of hope. I began to feel sick and my specialist sent me home a week later smiling as she told me I had morning sickness. We still had a small chance. 10 days after the ordeal I went back to my doctor for an ultrasound. As I looked up at the screen I saw my little miracle’s heartbeat. We weren’t out of the woods yet but each scan the baby continued to grow and get stronger. That’s when I knew this baby was going to be the bravest person I would ever know.

Alexander is born

As a newborn his left leg would always go over to the right.

As a newborn his left leg would always go over to the right.

The rest of my pregnancy was fairly uneventful. I had to have blood thinning injections daily to prevent clotting as I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was also admitted to hospital with campylobacter.

My doctor decided it was best to induce me around my due date. I was induced on the 23rd July and gave birth to my son Alexander via emergency caesarean on the 24th July 2013. We were in hospital for a week with feeding complications and tongue tie but everything seemed fine and he was happy and healthy. We were over the moon.

Maybe it is the same for all parents but for us having been told there is a possibility you may never have children and then come very close to losing one you seem to celebrate and look forward to all the ‘firsts’. I would get excited taking Alexander to check ups with the MACH nurses. I remember once I specifically asked about his hips. I don’t know why as I had no concerns. The MACH nurse assured me he had ‘perfect’ hips. I thought nothing more of it as his hips had been checked multiple times by the various doctors and nurses. I had however noticed Alexander had started to develop a flat head. Michael has craniostenosis so we thought it best to get it checked. Our GP referred us to a paediatrician.

An unexpected and late diagnosis of DDH

We saw the paediatrician when Alexander was 4 months old. He assured us we had nothing to worry about with Alexander’s head. He did do a thorough check over of him. When he pulled his legs together he noticed a discrepancy in length. My heart sank as I could tell there was something not right. He then showed us that Alexander’s left hip was completely dislocated and showed us how it would relocate and dislocate. I was horrified. I will never forget what it looks like to see a hip pop in and out of its socket. I explained that I hadn’t dropped him or held him wrong so how on earth could it be dislocated? I asked if I had done something wrong during pregnancy. It must be the mummy guilt but I automatically blamed myself. The doctor explained that Alexander had Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) and he considered it severe. He also asked us about his delivery, family history etc. Michael’s sister had clicky hips as a baby but that was all fixed with double nappies. He wasn’t breach, he didn’t have uneven creases, we never noticed any clunking, he wasn’t female, wasn’t over 4kg at birth, wasn’t overdue.  His only risk factor was being 1st born. We were referred to a specialist in Bowral. We were told that the specialist in Canberra had been deregistered. We had never heard of DDH and never in a million years suspected that Alexander had it.

Alexander's first cast after recovery (aged 4 months)

Alexander’s first cast after recovery (aged 4 months)

A week later we went on the 2 hour drive to Bowral to see the specialist. Alexander had had an X-ray and ultrasound to confirm the severity. The doctor said that Alexander would need a Spica cast. We were preparing for a Pavlik harness and had been frantically researching treatment for DDH. I was still in shock from the whole thing as a week earlier we’d had no idea he even had a dislocated hip. I felt guilty that I hadn’t noticed anything wrong and took the professional’s word. How did so many people miss a dislocated hip? What else had they missed? I was angry, sad and bitter. The only thing I had ever found unusual was that his length would change when he was measured. Once it was apparently 1cm shorter than the last. I realised that it depended on which side they measured him as to the length discrepancy. Sitting in the top of his cupboard were all the cute pairs of shorts, the jumperoo and swimming related presents we had bought him for his 1st Christmas and summer. I knew I would have to return half of them and I was purely devastated.

The spica is fitted

Second cast: he was always so happy!

Second cast: he was always so happy!

10 days from diagnosis we were driving to Sydney children’s hospital to have our baby put under general anaesthetic and have a closed reduction and Spica cast fitted. We had cherished every last bath since we found out. We even filmed him having a bath as it was his favourite part of the day and would soon be gone. It felt surreal handing over my seemingly healthy baby to a surgeon to be put in an almost full body cast. I knew it was necessary but I still hated every minute of it. Recovery was the worst. Alexander felt so heavy and bulky and I couldn’t hold him close. He was disorientated and upset. I couldn’t stop crying and tried my best to listen to the nurses as they explained how I needed to change his nappy, and explain his modified car seat. I was in a state of mourning. I felt I had lost part of my baby and that 12 weeks in a cast would be impossible. I cried the 3 hour journey home again. I naively thought nothing else would happen to us after everything we had been through to get him here.

Despite my feelings we quickly adapted to life in a Spica. We were amazed at how resilient and happy our little boy was. We celebrated his first Christmas and even drew a tree on his cast. He never once complained even though we reached temperatures of over 38 degrees in Canberra. His cast change 6 weeks later was a huge milestone. We were so proud of Alexander and ourselves. The hardest part about the Spica was the stares and comments from people who didn’t know or understand. A trip to the shops would take twice as long as people would ask what happened? What did we do to our baby? etc. The people who pointed and stared were the worst. I felt like wearing a t-shirt saying, ‘No I didn’t break my son’s legs.’

Into a Rhino brace

13 weeks passed and it was time to get the cast removed and be fitted in a Rhino brace. Alexander screamed as the saw cut through the cast but was still showing how brave he was. He loved the bath the nurses gave him and we finally had some normality back. I was still sad about what he had missed but things had to be better in a brace. We went for a review after 9 weeks in the brace. We had been counting down as we were told 12 weeks in the brace. Again we were wracked with disappointment. His hips hadn’t started to calcify yet and it was recommended at least another 8 weeks in the brace full time. Alexander had started to get upset when we put his brace on after nappy changes and once again we were devastated. People would say it’s not that much longer and it’s for his best interest. We knew that but after 6 long months we just wanted it to be over. We also knew it could be worse and the fear of all this treatment not working is always in the back of our minds. In his brace Alexander learnt how to move around and even roll over. Once again his bravery and resilience amazed us.

Cast off after 13 weeks

Cast off after 13 weeks

Alexander was set much wider in the brace. He didn’t fit in the stroller we had bought him anymore. Whenever we went out he wouldn’t fit in the high chairs. We had to try and modify where his legs went. People would still stare and one person asked me how I broke my son’s hips! Shopkeepers would ask us to put his legs together so he didn’t knock things over.

Alex was in a Rhino brace for our wedding. We were so excited he was able to wear pants for the wedding day!

Alex was in a Rhino brace for our wedding. We were so excited he was able to wear pants for the wedding day!

Brace-free at last!

After 13 weeks in a Spica and 16 weeks in the brace we are now brace free. I will admit that on his most recent X-ray I spent 3 hours in tears as I thought his hip had dislocated again. Thankfully it hadn’t but it shows how much anxiety there is as a parent of a hip baby. When the specialist told us Alexander could take his brace off we were purely elated. I cried tears of joy. We are just so proud of how strong he has been through the whole journey and how well we did as parents. I panic almost daily since the brace came off that his hip has dislocated as there is still a small chance. We can only pray he continues to improve. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the positive attention we receive from unknowing strangers. We are treated completely differently to when he had his cast and brace on and it is quite concerning how terribly parents of hip babies are treated.

Raising awareness

This is when I decided I needed to try and raise awareness of DDH. Not once was safe swaddling or baby carries mentioned in any appointments, handouts or hospital antenatal classes. People in the street assumed

He learnt how to sit in the brace

He learnt how to sit in the brace

that we had harmed our baby rather than him having a medical condition. I am still frustrated that it wasn’t noticed earlier. As I look through his checks the hip boxes are ticked as normal. Although Alexander’s journey is not yet over we have realised that this is our chance to raise awareness and help other families. We have met some amazing people along the way and made some lovely friendships. We are hoping that in the near future he will be able to catch up to the physical milestones he is yet to reach. We are hoping that at his check-up when he is 3 DDH will all have become a bad memory.




Michael’s Story: A father’s perspective on DDH

As a male who was worked for years in the childcare industry, I have been around kids for the best part of my life. But nothing compares to having your own and seeing their development. It really amazes me. I always wanted to be an involved Dad.

The difference in Alexander's leg length

The difference in Alexander’s leg length

We decided it was best to get Alexander’s unusually shaped head checked out. When the doctor showed us his hip dislocate and relocate I was in complete shock and disbelief. Just watching our poor baby being pinned down and his hip being popped in and out was shocking and something I will never forget. I didn’t know anything about hip dysplasia and I walked out of the doctor’s office with so many unanswered questions. I knew I was heading down an unknown road.

I felt upset that the doctors hadn’t picked it up earlier but I just decided to keep moving forward. This was really only the beginning of the whirlwind journey we have been on. I was a bit apprehensive about him being put in a cast and I was worried about the surgery. I just had to keep reminding myself that it was in his best interest. The worst part was leaving Alexander with the surgeon. I had to try and be strong because Alexander had no idea what was happening.


Because Alexander was our first child, life in the spica became our normal way of life. You just packed the nappies with the tabs ripped off and never thought anything of it. There have been a lot of frustrations and learning curves. I remember it would take so long to change a nappy and make sure it was in right. We just always tried to make the best of a unique situation. I tried to still do ‘dad’ things with him. I signed his cast and used to sing him ‘spica kid’ instead of ‘spider pig’. We just became creative with how we could incorporate things like water play. Having a background in children’s services helped immensely.

We went camping with him in the spica. We used                                                                 cloth nappies over the top to act as ‘pants’

We went camping with him in the spica. We used
cloth nappies over the top to act as ‘pants’

One thing that became frustrating was the stares. Some days it just annoyed the s**t out of you and other days you were just prepared and had back up stories such as skydiving accidents when it got too much. We are lucky that we have friends and family who are supportive. The most common question was how to change a nappy which was always amusing.

In a cast for his first Christmas

In a cast for his first Christmas

Living with a child with DDH just became our way of life. We adapted as we had to and made the most of it. At times it became tough when he was inadvertently excluded because he wouldn’t fit in a high chair. This wasn’t done intentionally but it was still hard to see. We still have many chapters to go in our journey but I just don’t want parents to think it’s the end of the world even though it seems like it at times. As long as Alexander is a mobile and happy kid who can participate I will be happy. You just have to have patience.


Guest Post: Christine’s Story


A big thanks to Christine for sharing about her daughter’s journey so far with DDH:

 Our hip dysplasia journey started in March 2014 when our daughter was 5 months old. We had taken her for a check-up with our GP, who thought her hips seemed a little stiff and ordered an ultrasound ‘just to be sure’. The next few days were full of worry and fear of the unknown – what is hip dysplasia anyway? Would she need surgery? How would we ever stop a 5 month old baby from wanting to wriggle around and use the legs she had only just discovered belonged to her? And could we have done anything to prevent her from getting it in the first place?

Her ultrasound results weren’t fantastic; we were told that where a normal 5 month old’s hip should have an angle of approximately 60 degrees, hers were closer to 30 and she was diagnosed with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). She would definitely require some treatment, and was fitted then and there with a Pavlik harness to be worn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unfortunately for us, this meant no bath at the end of the day which had been one of only a handful of foolproof strategies to calm our often cranky baby before bedtime! With no way of knowing how successful this course of treatment would be (given she was diagnosed and fitted at a relatively late age for the Pavlik harness to be successful), we were forced to ‘wait and see’, and a nervous and frustrating wait began until we could see a Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon and get his opinion on her progress.

After 7 weeks in the harness, her hips were greatly improved, although still not spectacular. On the recommendation of her specialist, she is now only required to wear her Pavlik 23 hours a day, and that one hour she has to wriggle around on her belly, chew on her feet and splash about in the bath is the very best part of our day. She will be reviewed in June and may then only have to wear the harness overnight, although for how long that will be required it is impossible to say.

Since starting this journey, we have discovered that we had several known risk factors, as well as a previously unknown family history, before she was born; she is our first child, a girl, and was induced at 38 weeks due to low amniotic fluid. In hindsight, these factors alone should have been reason enough for her doctors to order an ultrasound at 6 weeks to identify whether there was any likelihood of developing hip dysplasia down the track. Had we known about her susceptibility and been able to treat her DDH at 6 weeks instead of 5 months, we are confident that she would have adjusted to the harness much more quickly, her total treatment time would have been greatly reduced and her motor skills would not now be several months behind her peers’. Should we decide to have any more children in future, we will be insisting upon screening at 6 weeks and much closer supervision as that child grows to ensure we identify any problems as early as possible. Although ours has been a very low intervention journey with straightforward treatment and, it would appear, a high level of success, we are certain that had it been diagnosed earlier, our little girl would be finished her treatment by now (or at least only required to wear her Pavlik part-time). Routine screening of children born with multiple risk factors for DDH would undoubtedly increase the number of early diagnoses and reduce the numbers of children and young adults who are required to undergo painful surgical treatment to rectify their DDH later in life.


Our 12 week ultrasound revealed that her left hip is normal but the right still has some way to go, so she will remain in the Pavlik harness for at least another 6 weeks. We are of course frustrated but still hopeful that the right hip can also be corrected with bracing alone.

Hannah’s Story


This is my friend Megan’s account of her daughter’s journey with DDH. I hope you will find it encouraging to read a Pavlik Harness success story!


Until I became a parent I had always been a firm believer that if you are determined, and you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.  Then I had a baby.   The loss of control started while I was pregnant when Hannah remained in the breech position and was so firmly wedged into my rib cage and pelvis it was deemed pointless to try and turn her (via the ECV procedure described by Jen in her earlier posts).  In the UK there is no option of attempting a breech natural birth (although in New Zealand they seem to think that is an excellent option :-0), so months of hypnobirth training in preparation for what I imagined being a tranquil, earth mother labour with dreamy music and hallmark card endings was shelved for an elective Caesarian at 39 weeks.  It ended up a  fairly harrowing day of waiting while emergency after emergency shunted me to the end of the day WITH NO FOOD (the worst part!).  It was a less than ideal start from my perfectionist viewpoint.

Being a first born, female, breech baby with genetic predisposition ticked all the boxes for potential hip problems.  Luckily in the UK, and in New Zealand where we now live, there are screening programs to check all newborn babies hips.  If you have a breech baby you are additionally sent for an ultrasound screening of the hips at six weeks.  Hannah’s hips were checked at birth and no problems were found.  I didn’t think much more about it.  The six week check-up came and I had been totally focused on trying to establish breastfeeding, which was still not going particularly well. My ‘work hard, achieve anything’ ethic led me to doggedly persevere and it was taking all the energy I had to cope with the discomfort and the worry that a lack of milk was the reason our darling Hannah was a ‘non-sleeper’.


Jared didn’t come with me to The Appointment because I didn’t think much was going to happen.   As anyone with a young baby will know, trips out with a baby are a mission.  Timing is everything – naps, feeding and nappy changes have to be planned with military precision.  Bags are prepared well in advance.  Of course I know all that now, but back in those days it was just chaos, and stress levels were high whenever I had to get to any appointment.  Both this visit, and what became many subsequent visits involved long periods of waiting in the waiting room. I was trying to breastfeed using nipple shields that would fall off during the feeds.  Milk would spray everywhere and Hannah would scream.  I was a very long way from the happy hippy mummy I had envisioned in my head!

With that stage set, we finally went into our appointment and the consultant, who was remarkably lacking in empathy and compassion for a paediatric doctor, soon let me know there was a problem. She made a comment along the lines of “oooh that’s not good” when looking at Hannah’s hip socket, whipped out her ruler and spent an age drawing angles on the print out of her ultrasound.  We had to return a couple of weeks later and have a Pavlik Harness fitted.  I battled to take it all in, and the reality only really hit me when I got home and started googling ‘Pavlik Harness’.  The nightmare that is Google also provided me with a lot of information as to what could happen if the Pavlik Harness treatment did not work.  I was officially freaking out.


The UK is fortunate to have a wonderful, if controversial, public health system that allows potentially debilitating problems like hip dysplasia be diagnosed and treated for free, but it also means resources are stretched and one very quickly becomes a cog in a wheel.  Beside Google, I had very little preparation for what was to come.  Arriving the following week to have the Pavlik fitted (slightly better prepared for the trip, but not much!) I was asked where Hannah’s socks were.  Socks?  Apparently one was supposed to bring long socks that reached up to her mid-thigh to protect her very delicate skin from chafing, especially behind the knee’s where sweat can cause a nasty rash.  So we had no socks, and I was already feeling like I had failed to look after my baby.  **Disclaimer – I can’t totally confirm I did not receive sock advice during our first visit.  I was in a daze – they could have told me anything.

Buddha baby (no long socks) but still smiling

Buddha baby (no long socks) but still smiling

The harness was to remain on 24 hours a day and we were to bring Hannah in once a week to ‘bath’ and have the harness adjusted.  That meant that besides the socks, the harness was on her naked skin, and clothes worn on top of it.  Nappies had to be woven through the harness straps.  Not everyone has this treatment method.  Often one is allowed to remove the harness daily to give your baby a quick wash, which means the harness can be worn over clothes.  Our consultant was fairly hard core though, saying that if we wanted the best for our baby, we should not remove it.  I know she meant well, and was doing her job, but I confess I did not have warm fuzzy feelings for her at this stage.  I needed someone to blame for how dreadful I was feeling, and she fit the bill nicely.  If I got tearful, which happened pretty much every week in the early days when Hannah would scream through the entire appointment, she would basically tell me to man up, as we were doing what needed to be done.


Hair washing

Hair washing

Picking Hannah up for the first time in her harness almost broke my heart.  My floppy cuddly baby was a solid little Buddha baby!  I was sorely lacking in perspective, but I felt like my baby was broken.  I could barely look at her without tears on that first day, and yet I needed to cuddle her close constantly to assuage the guilt I felt for putting her through this treatment.  It must be said that she seemed absolutely fine.  Smiling, happy enough, and overall not too bothered at all.  The first few nights we were told to give her some paracetamol as she would be suffering from some stiffness from her legs being held in the lateral position.  Her sleep was still pretty dreadful, but not necessarily worse than before.  I got the hang of breastfeeding her pretty quickly with the help of some gymnastics and pillows to find a good position.  Nappy changes quickly became a doddle, and perhaps easier than before since her legs were trapped in position instead of waving about with poo going everywhere.  The worst thing we had to deal with was the rubbing of the harness on her skin.  We wrapped surgical tape around the hard velcro bits, and I tried wrapping fabric around some of it, but she still suffered from rub marks on her delicate skin throughout the treatment.

Vital!  Our GAP snow suit that could fit Hannah’s legs in the harness position

Vital! Our GAP snow suit that could fit Hannah’s legs in the harness position

Not being able to bath her led to some nasty rashes and peeling skin  behind her knees in particular.  We did do the odd hair wash at home (see picture) and did a ‘top ‘n tail’ every night to keep things fresh and stick to a night time routine I was trying to implement to improve our bedtimes, which were long and arduous.  Finding clothes that fit was also a problem, as it was mid-winter in the UK.  All the onesies I had bought or been given were useless as we couldn’t take the harness off to change them, so she had a couple of pairs of baggy trousers and tops as a standard uniform during the Pavlik Period.  I also bought an awesome snow suit that had a sleeping bag like bottom for venturing out in.  We also had to buy a proper cot, as she had previous been in a hammock which didn’t work at all with her legs in the froggie position.  Luckily the car seat was not a problem – we used a Maxi Cosi Cabriolet and the Pavlik fit fine within it.  A life saver in terms of containing Hannah so I had my hands free on the odd occasion was the Baby Bjorn seat.

Baby Bjorn seat - a lifesaver!

Baby Bjorn seat – a lifesaver!

The following week I took Hannah in for her first ‘bath’ at the hospital. Truly I was expecting to be able to bath her – but it turned out the harness came off, I wiped her down with a cloth and the harness would go back on.  I had been so excited about this first bath I had taken a rubber ducky with me for her to play with.  I felt a bit foolish, and once again VERY sorry for myself and my baby.  When I look back at it, I have to laugh though.  What would an 8-week-old do with a rubber ducky?  This time I had brought socks, and we had to apply a drying cream behind her knees as the skin was already inflamed and peeling off in places.  This became our routine for the next six weeks that we were initially told Hannah was going to be in the harness.  Six weeks became eight weeks and then after nine weeks and we were given the joyous news that the harness could come off as her hip socket angles were within normal range.


My happy girl in her uniform

My happy girl in her uniform

At the beginning of this journey I felt such sorrow – that my baby had physical problems, along with guilt -I blamed myself for her being breech, a bit of anger  – that we were going through this when everyone else in my post-natal group had had perfect pain-relief free natural births and babies with no issues.  Looking back though, with the perspective that time gives, I can see that this experience was an important part of the crash course that came with becoming a parent after a decade of being career-driven, footloose and fancy free.  Nothing had prepared me for how helpless and vulnerable an ailing child can make you feel, and the total loss of control you experience when a little person comes into your life.  I feel quite embarrassed now at how much I battled with our hip dysplasia problems in my early months of being a mum, despite being aware that many people had far bigger challenges to deal with.  Hip dysplasia is a relatively common, potentially debilitating, but extremely treatable problem, and the treatment that babies receive these days prevent a number of problems in later life.  The most important lesson I learnt was that stuff happens, whether you deserve it or not, no matter how hard you work to prevent it, but the legacy it leaves is a direct result of how you view the experience.


Harness off but can't shake the frog position!

Harness off but can’t shake the frog position!

I am happy to say that Hannah had six monthly check ups until she was two years old, and then was released from the hip program.  She started crawling at around seven months, and although she was a late walker, finally walking at around 15 months, it was late but not that late.  These days, at three and a half, she seems to think walking is a waste of time, and is usually found running.  She is an absolute delight and I am so proud of her.  My darling girl has taught me a huge amount in her three and a half years.  I can’t wait to see where the next few take us.

My pride and joy aged 3

My pride and joy aged 3