Hip Dysplasia and Baby Wearing
What exactly IS hip dysplasia and how can we detect it?
Hip dysplasia is the most common abnormality in the newborn population and as many as 1/6 babies are born with mild hip instability, as reported by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. So, what exactly IS hip dysplasia and how can we detect it? Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a condition in which the “ball and socket” joint of the hip does not form properly to create a firm fit. It is typically diagnosed by a combination of physical examination by a medical provider and imaging (ultrasound, x-ray). It can be difficult to recognize if it is happening in both hips (symmetrical symptoms) or if it develops later on throughout the first year of life.
Some of the risk factors include having a family history of DDH, presentation of a breech position at birth, being female, with your firstborn child or due to a prolonged labor, and with larger size babies. As your child develops and begins to stand and walk, keep an eye out for asymmetrical buttock creases, hip clicking or popping on 1 side or both, stiffness or difficulty opening your child’s legs during diaper changes, an exaggerated waddling limp when walking or a pronounced swayback position when standing.
So, if I have concerns, what should I do? In addition to screening through your provider or a trained medical professional, there are many great positioning options to promote safe and continued development of a healthy hip joint. Research suggests the preferred position in general to create the best anatomical fit of the “ball” into the “socket” is the “Spread and Squat” position which combines hip and knee flexion with the knees rotated outward. Babywearing can be a great option in which to attain and maintain this position though the proper positioning is very important as babywearing is often used for increased duration as compared to baby transport (carriers, etc).
If your child has been diagnosed with DDH or another congenital disorder that may affect your ability to position your child comfortably into a babywearing harness, speak to your provider or a trained medical professional who can assist with determining and attaining safe positioning options to promote healthy hip development.