I was sitting on the London underground today when I saw something that made me beam and hiccup a sob simultaneously.
It was a stranger, a man, he was carrying his baby in a sling. The child was adorned in a beautiful bonnet and she was beaming at her father. Her eyes were staring at his, and her lovely chubby baby legs were spread around his waist in a gorgeous frog like position.
Whether he knew it or not, that Dad was helping to ensure healthy hip growth for his child.
We had two slings for BB, one that sat her in a similar position and one that was front facing and left her legs dangling, useless, pulling her hips down, creating a pressure on those fragile joints.
I have had three children and was never advised of the dangers of carrying your baby outwards. It took a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, a six hour operation including bone grafts, a blood transfusion, and twelve weeks in a half body cast for me to learn an incredibly hard lesson.
If only I had known then what I know now
Some kids are born with dislocated hips. Others have loose hip joints that are not always looked for in the right way or diagnosed until much later when the surgery is more invasive and the recovery so much slower.
We will never know whether BB was born with dysplasia, or whether it developed through her first few weeks and months. We do feel let down by our health visitors, GP and pediatrician.
She and many more spica babies that I have met since were all missed by the medical system.
She was diagnosed so late in her little life that the road to recovery has been long, painful and intensely frustrating.
We were signed off from physio last week. The official diagnosis being that BB’s leg is as good as it is going to get. My daughter walks with a faint limp that turns into a drag when she is tired. She is three and a half and needs a buggy for most trips out. Other parents raise a quizzical eyebrow when they see her climb into her chariot after walking a few steps. She cannot extend her left hip or extend the joint to the side.
She is not fixed.
I fought the urge recently to pull a baby out of her forward facing baby carrier. The mother may have reported me had I gone through with the temptation. I heard the mother talk to her friend about weaning and how it was only going to be organic, and realised with a heavy heart that this woman, like me, had never been told of the potential danger she was causing to her child, she wanted the best and was doing her best.
Hip dysplasia figures are rising in the UK and the health service are not changing their awareness policy.
The words of my health visitor still haunt me,
“hip dysplasia – what it that then?”
Preventing Hip Dysplasia - What I would do differently
When babies are in the womb a baby spends most of its time in the fetal position where the hips are bent and flexed. When they are born the stretching out process can take months and as babies are flexible their joints are loose.
Put simply, if you force the joint to extend and stretch too quickly you can deform the hip causing displaysia or dislocation.
I would only use a sling that spreads the babies legs around my middle, like a frog. Front carriers and ones that pull the legs together should be taken off the baby stores shelves and burnt (in my opinion.)
I would choose a car seat were the sides are low so the babies legs are not pushed together.
I would swaddle in a way that allows the hips and knees to extend. This video demonstrates perfectly.
Finally, I would shout louder and sooner if my child was showing physical developmental delays rather than being pacified with the theory ‘she’ll catch up.’
Hindsight – If only.
For more details on DDH and why I think you should do everything possible to avoid it or try not to worsen the condition please read:
You can visit Emma’s site as she blogs about her experience with DDH and her daughter.
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