Hip Dysplasia in Infants

I remember I was so excited after my 20 week ultrasound because it meant I could officially start my baby shopping!

I also vividly remember walking into my local Babies R Us and getting totally overwhelmed.

Do we actually NEED all of this stuff?! And more importantly, is it all SAFE?

It’s one thing to waste money on totally useless baby products, but quite another if a product might actually bring harm to a baby.

Everyone knows that a pregnant woman has to be careful in avoiding potential toxins because it can potentially affect her baby.  The younger the fetus, the more potential for serious harm to the baby, because they are more likely to be developing vital organs.

Similarly, a baby in their first year of life also undergo extraordinary amounts of growth. While the risk is less than compared to a growing baby in, say, their second trimester of development, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Improper development and harm during this time can affect the baby later in life, if not the rest of their lives.

I am a big fan of skin-to-skin (otherwise known as kangaroo care).  While looking for products to easily carry my baby in at home, I came across this issue of hip dysplasia in infants.

Hip dysplasia can be diagnosed in newborns, but can also develop later on in childhood. In most babies, this condition does not cause any pain and thus can easily go undetected.

Baby’s legs are tucked in a so called fetal position when they’re in the womb.  When they are born, their most natural position is to have their legs separate and bent at the knees (froggy position) as opposed to straightened out and together. You can also see this when you pick up a newborn baby, and their legs naturally curl up rather than hang straight.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, and the froggy position helps the ball remain deep within the socket to facilitate proper growth.  Babies, especially those less than 6 months, still have immature hip sockets which are soft around the edges.  This can create potential problems if the legs are forced to straighten when the baby is not ready. Straightening the legs actually moves the hip joint (the ball) closer to the edge of the socket, which can cause dislocation if the joint completely slips out or improper formation of the hip socket (hip dysplasia).

The longer a baby spends in an improper position, the greater the risk of having ill formed hip joints.This can lead to physical signs (like having one leg shorter than the other), clicking in the hips, painful hip arthritis as adults or limping.

While some babies may be born with hip dysplasia, or be more genetically prone to having hip problems, a parent can help prevent developmental hip dysplasia but ensuring proper positioning of the baby’s hips at all times.

When purchasing baby products (car seats, baby carriers, swaddles, etc) make sure that the product will allow the baby to be in the recommended position, which is to have their legs apart, with the thighs supported, and hips bent.

I would strongly recommend that parents carefully select an appropriate baby carrier that would support proper hip growth. The legs should not be freely dangling, but should be supported up to the knee joint so that it is spread apart.  I would like to share with you the story of a mom whose child had to undergo surgery for hip dysplasia here.

When using swaddles, you should avoid swaddling so tightly that a baby cannot freely move their legs about. I personally use sleep sacks, which allow the baby to freely kick and relax their legs whichever way they want.  Not to mention it also stays on no matter how much the baby struggles or moves at night.

I thoroughly research all the products I purchase before I buy them, because I have come to realize that not only are most things unnecessary, but also that just because something is on the market doesn’t make it safe (crib bumpers, anyone?)

If you would like more information on hip dysplasia, there’s tons of useful information found on the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, including some very helpful pictures on proper hip positions.




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