Hip dysplasia in babies: how to encourage healthy hip development

by | Jul 5, 2021

When babies are born, it takes several months for their joints to stretch out naturally. Forcing hips to stretch out too quickly can result in problems such as hip dysplasia. Whether you’re a first-time parent or about to welcome your next baby, follow these five simple tips to encourage your baby’s healthy hip development.

Know the risk factors for hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is also known as developmental dysplasia of the hip, DDH, and ‘clicky hips’. It’s a common condition whereby the hip ball and socket do not fit together in their ‘normal’ position. Hip dysplasia can be due to abnormal development, a lack of the hip joint’s growth, or a combination of the two. The condition can range from hips that are slightly loose to fully dislocated. Some risk factors make it more likely to occur, and these include:

A family history of hip dysplasia

The position of a baby in the womb, with breech babies most at risk

Hip position during the first year of life

When I was pregnant with Eve, our doctor told us she was breech and when born, may have ‘hip issues’. Curious to find out more, I researched online and discovered the doctor was referring to hip dysplasia. Following both of my girls being treated for hip dysplasia, I decided to start Hip Wise, a charitable not-for-profit organisation. Hip Wise raises awareness of the condition, and helps families navigate their own hip dysplasia experiences.

Know the potential signs of hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can fly under the radar as it’s a silent condition, with no apparent signs or symptoms. If your baby has one of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have hip dysplasia. Make time to discuss these signs with your GP:

Difficulty spreading your baby’s legs apart, for example, when changing their nappy. Both legs should be able to open relatively easily;

Extra buttock crease on one side or creases that don’t line up;

‘Clunk’ or ‘click’ sounds when moving the hip;

Uneven thigh creases, although many babies have this without it being due to hip dysplasia; and

A limp, leg length difference, or swayback once your baby is walking.

    Never miss an opportunity to get hips checked

    Medical practitioners recommend hips checks for your baby at birth. Including before going home from the hospital, and at all routine medical appointments until your child walk starts walking. Some states carry out hip checks for children up to 5 years old. The hip check is a relatively simple procedure carried out by your doctor, midwife or early childhood nurse. They will move your baby’s hips through their range of movement and feel for the joint’s stability.

    Make sure you are baby-wearing correctly

    By baby-wearing, you can encourage your baby’s healthy hip development. When worn in the ‘M’ position, with the thighs spread and supported by the carrier, you are placing your baby’s hips in the best possible position. Our CONNECT™ Collection of carriers is ergonomically designed and hip-healthy, with each carrier supporting your baby in the ‘M’ position, with our CONNECT™ Plus approved as Hipwise by Healthy Hips Australia.

    Learn how to swaddle correctly

    We can’t change a family history of hip dysplasia or always influence a baby’s position in the womb. However, swaddling is one area where you can reduce risk. Research indicates that inappropriate swaddling can increase the risk of hip dysplasia. So, when swaddling your baby, ensure it is loose from the waist downwards. This allows your baby’s legs to move in and out of the frog-legged position freely.

    Seek medical advice if concerned

    If you are concerned about your child’s hips, we recommend visiting your medical practitioner or GP for specific advice. Head to the Healthy Hips Australia website if you want to learn more about healthy hips in babies and hip dysplasia.

    About the author

     Sarah Twomey

    Sarah Twomey founded Healthy Hips Australia after recognising the need for a national body offering support and education to those affected by hip dysplasia. A mother of two children with hip dysplasia, Sarah was bewildered when her eldest daughter Eve’s two-month stint in a hip harness turned into a two-year ordeal. Sarah believes that increasing support, education, and resources in Australia will benefit all people impacted by the condition, along with the community-based health professionals working with them.