Baby Hip Health Week

This week is national Baby Hip Health Week and the focus is on proper postioning in baby equipment and hip friendly swaddling.

Organised by the national charity STEPS, who have teamed up with the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. Together they have produced two parent friendly leaflets one showing what to look for in car seats and baby carriers to help prevent injury to hips. And the other oone talks about swaddling.

STEPS is the only national charity that supports families affected by all lower limb conditions and help over 2000 families a year. It was set up over 30 years ago when Sue Banton’s son was born with clubfoot and she found there was nowhere to go for support. She wrote to Mother and Baby and Parenting Magazines and received 60 responses from parents in the same position. Over the years  STEPS has expanded to support parents of children with hip dysplasia and other lower limb conditions.

They support families by giving clear information about the various conditions, the treatment options and how to care for their children on a daily basis.

Spotting Hip Dysplasia

Although most hospitals in UK perform a hip check soon after birth these are not 100% accurate. STEPS pass on the signs to look out for that may inidcate hip dysplasia.

  • One leg longer than the other
  • Unequal creases in buttocks/thighs
  • When changing nappy one leg does not move out as easily as the other or both seem restricted.
  • Crawls with one leg dragging
  • Walks in a waddling fashion

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

Family history, babies are 30 times more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia if there is a history of it in the family.

A breech baby, one that has a fixed foot deformity or one that is born with torticolis (stiffness in neck).

A sensitivity to relaxin.

Girls are 4-5 times more likely to suffer than boys.

Cultures that keep their babies in cradle boards have higher rates of hip dysplasia.

Prevention

The causes continue to be studied and there is no 100% prevention, but being aware of hip healthy postitioning and swaddling can help.

Hip Healthy Positioning

At birth the socket of the hip joint is not fully formed – the edges are cartilage and any damage experienced early on in life can leave the socket permanantly deformed. In order to protect this area it is important to support  the natural spread squat postion that a baby assumes (which echoes the postion in the womb). The risk of hip dysplasia is greatest during the first 6 months and so it is important that any carrying or seating device allows the open postion and supports the thighs. The most unhealthy position is when the legs are extended.

In a sling or baby carrier it is important the legs are kept in the froggy position (also known as the spread squat or ‘M’ position.) and that the material supports the legs along the thighs and goes from knee pit to knee pit.

To achieve this it is important to look at the structure of the carrier:

Wraps, ring slings and pouches naturally give this support. For Mei Tais and Soft Structured Carriers you need to look at the seat width. Put your baby into the carrier and make sure it gives the full knee pit to knee pit support. Mei Tais seats can be made narrower either by tying them up with a lace or some have adjustable seats. (it is worth noting that seats that are too wide can also have a detrimental effect on small babies).

By examining the seat width it will also give you an idea of how long the carrier will last – often the instructions will say it can last for an older toddler but the seat will not give the crrect amount of support (even toddlers are more comfortable in a properly supported carrier).

For more information on hip dyplasia visit the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.