Blog of the Week: Hip Dysplasia – Why we should burn forward facing baby carriers

Blog_of_the_week_badgeFor our Blog of the Week this week we’ve chosen this post Northern Mum who’s daughter was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. It is a very important read and could help other mothers avoid the heartache and pain that this family has suffered. Since writing this post Northern Mum has had a huge reaction from other parents so we thought we would help her spread the message a little further.


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.

Preventing Hip Dysplasia - a personal post from Northern Mum

Image and rights: Northern Mum

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:

Before the cast      Operation Day   Living in spica and changing all expectations   Taking the cast off    The day I broke my daughter   Putting the cast back on      In your face DDH

You can visit Emma’s site as she blogs about her experience with DDH and her daughter.

*This post may only be shared with credit to the author and the photo may not be shared without the post. 

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11 Responses to Blog of the Week: Hip Dysplasia – Why we should burn forward facing baby carriers

  1. wendy says:

    Our daughter had this, though not with using a baby sling. She was in different leg splints etc for months and had 3 operations. It wasn’t picked up at clinic, I noticed myself. It was the most horrible time for our daughter. If a type of baby sling is putting your child in danger of having this hip problem, then it should be banned.

  2. Michèle Gordon says:

    I understand too well what you are saying about wanting to tell everyone how wrong it is to carry their baby facing forward. Both my children were born breech, my older one was diagnosed a one day old with hip dysplasia and had to waer a harness for three months, 24 hours a day. Not easy when you just want to cuddle and squeeze your baby constantly and her legs and the harness seem to get in the way. But at least she hadn’t discovered movement yet so once she did, she was out of the harness and in full hip health. My daughter was born in Germany were all breech babies are auctomatically checked within a day for any hip damage etc. for obvious reasons; the older children are when abnomalities are discovered the longer it will take to recover. My son was born in the UK and was not checked! I had to be protest, appeal and put all my efforts into him getting a hip scan which he finally recieved at the age of four months. Luckily, all was well and he needed to treatment. With regard to the carriers though I have to say that the hospital had posters on the wall warning about forward looking carriers and the door frame swings/bouncers, so did the hospital in Germany. I hope your daughter will be ok and I am sorry you all had such a tough time. All the best!

  3. Beth little says:

    My eldest daughter was born and diagnosed within 24hrs by one doctor. The following day another doctor passed her hips and said she was fine! Had we listened to him my daughter would now be facing surgery! Thankfully I didn’t listen to the second doctor and went to the scan as a just in case precaution, and I’m so glad I did. She was put in a hip body brace for 15weeks. She now walks perfectly normal and her last X-ray showed her joints were brilliantly formed, how ever she will remain under a consultant until she’s 12 with regular check ups.
    I always used a baby sling with a tummy to tummy position or the breast feeding hug position both for my children’s and my comfort. Not enough people are aware of the dangers that these carriers can cause, and the manufacturers claim that the risk is so low that their isn’t sufficient enough evidence for these to do removed from shelves. I hope your little one eventually recovers. Keep pushing the doctors and consultant. Never give up xxx

  4. Carla Munafo says:

    I come from Spain and all babies, especially girls, are checked for this as this is more common than people thing in the UK. Coming from a different culture I feel sometimes the UK is way backwards in regards to baby care. My sister had this when she was born and it was solved with special nappies and never had any issues later in life and she is now 22yo.

  5. Rachel says:

    One of my twins was born with DDH, hers was thankfully diagnosed early but still severe enough for her to require major surgery. In her first two years, she was encased in harnesses/spica’s and abduction braces for a total of 20 months. It’s not just forward facing carriers and incorrect swaddling, it’s door bouncers, baby walkers and I guess the jumperoo-type toys as well if used on children who cannot support their own weight.
    I remain eternally grateful that breech babies are offered routine ultrasounds as in the “hip click” test done by doctors, DDH can easily be missed – particularly when both hips are effected. Like you have said in your blog, I would urge all parents to seek further advice and keep seeking it, if you are worried about your child’s physical development. An extra thigh crease, crawling with one leg dragging slightly, a lolloping walk can all be indicators of the condition. Good luck to your daughter – I hope she has made a full recovery 🙂

  6. Michelle Harris says:

    My eldest daughter had DDH in her right hip, she had it at birth though. She was in a Pavlik harness for 3 months. Had surgery at 16month, 19 months and 3 years. She is now 5 and only has the scars to show for it – she runs about mad now! The STEPS charity website are a great help for families with lower limb problems and their forum is brilliant.

  7. Tora P says:

    My heart goes out to you and your little princess. My own daughter was born with acetabular dysplasia but she was so lucky. They knew there was a problem before we were even discharged from the maternity unit. This was confirmed when she was 8 days old and she was immediately fitted with a Pavlic harness which stayed on 24/7 for 3 months, and even then only came off for an hour a day. About 6 weeks later it came off for good. For a short while she had a sturdier harness for a few hours a day but by then I’d got over the shock.

    I was horrified at first. I blamed myself that she wasn’t perfect, that perhaps I had caused this by doing something wrong when I was pregnant. I felt sorry for myself for about 3 hours on that first day then pulled myself together and got on with it. I didn’t realise how lucky I was.

    My angel is 4 and a half (almost) and 3 weeks ago she started school. Her hip joints will always be shallow and she needs monitoring until she’s 16. Finger’s crossed she doesn’t encounter any further problems, although we know it’s a possibility, I thank my lucky stars that on a daily basis we don’t think about it, that once in a while she has a ‘magic photo’ to check all is well.

    I send you my best wishes and hope that others heed your warning about front facing carriers. I hope fast diagnosis becomes the norm, it really does make all the difference.

  8. Lulu says:

    I recently fought that same urge to change the position of a baby in a carrier. I wanted to shout “please re-position your baby!” It was a tiny newborn baby in a baby sling with its little airway being pinched because it didn’t have the neck strength to move and better it’s little airway. Well as nicely as I could I suggested a different position and I was frowned upon by that parent. Just a little education would go a long way with these brand new hipster parents that think baby slings are so in. I would rather be frowned upon that a little one have to go through what your family went through or worse. Hope your little one makes a speedy recovery.

  9. What sort of baby sling / carrier is best then? Are the baby bjorn types ok if baby is tummy to tummy? I have often read about the dangers of slings but no one ever explains which are the safe ones.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Aniretak says:

    This is something that makes me angry at the current UK health system. A lot of these “avoidable” problems should be diagnosed sooner. I am currently 38 weeks and have to say that the care I received was a bare minimum. I come from the Czech republic. We test for hip dysplexia in 3 stages as soon as baby is born. First stage being carried out within 1st week of baby being born and the last one at 2 months. The difference that strikes me the most is that tests that are carried out as standard in CR are not carried out at all in the UK. The blue book made my Czech gynecologist laugh as he stated – the book is as big as a novel, yet there are no tests caried out in comparison. Another major difference I have noticed is that the mother is not examined troughout the pregnancy at all. It makes me think that this is another way for NHS to save money. I have actually been told that some tests I have been requesting are too expensive to NHS. Needless to say, I went to Czech and opted to pay for the necessary tests myself – and it didn’t work out that expensive – couple of hundred £ for a piece of mind. UK is meant to be a developed coutry, so why is it possible and in fact routine elsewhere? I am on a countdown now and quite honestly dreading it as the health professionals have not filled me with confidence at all 😦

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