I know there is a lot of debate in the babywearing community about correct babywearing. Carriers that only have a small strip of cloth between the crotch to support baby don’t allow a comfortable seat to sit in, and they also leave their little legs dangling freely, hence the common name “crotch danglers”. Some people feel that no matter what you are wearing baby in, you are keeping them close to you and promoting bonding and security. While this is true, I feel that if I am going to wear my baby, I not only want her to be comfortable, but safe as well. When I started researching the dangers of improper babywearing and hip dysplasia, I quickly realized there wasn’t any evidence clearly linking poor babywearing to hip problems. However, since my husband is a Physical Therapist and has dealt with hip dysplasia in children before, I thought I’d see what his take on this subject was (as well as encourage him to check hip dysplasia research to see what he could find). I should add that technically our daughter Avery has a very mild for of hip dysplasia, so we have dealt with a few hip issues ourselves. After Carl did a bit of research, he came to a few conclusions of his own that I asked him to share with you today!
After doing an exhaustive search through medical journals and sites, I have found that there are no recorded instances of baby carriers causing hip dysplasia. But, there is a reason for that. Hip dysplasia is a developmental condition that starts from birth that is often related to genetics or a breach birth. The problem is that improper baby wearing can accelerate or make the problem worse.
Hip dysplasia is the abnormal formation of the hip joint. It can range from very mild, such as just having loose ligaments around the hip, to severe, where the hip is dislocating (popping out) from the hip joint. Even in its mildest form, hip dysplasia can lead to severe problems in later years of life, where the cartilage around the ball of the hip is damaged. This can end up leading to osteoarthritis and eventually, to a hip replacement in older adults. Often in the early stages of mild hip dysplasia babies and children may not even experience pain or show any symptoms whatsoever. Pediatricians do often check for hip problems in babies, and hip dysplasia is the most common hip developmental deformity in children. It is estimated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that 1-2 of every 1000 babies have hip dysplasia. However, many more go undiagnosed, as it may be too mild to even detect. These cases may not even present problems until later in life such as early adulthood.
If a baby is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, they may be placed in a Pavlik harness or casted to promote a V-shape of the hip to allow for normal growth and development. In a worst-case scenario set of circumstances, surgery may be warranted. The best treatment for hip dysplasia is early detection and prevention.
So how does this affect baby wearing? If a baby is diagnosed with even a mild case of hip dysplasia, the International Hip Dysplasia Institute recommends proper baby wearing that supports the baby’s hips in a V form, not using crotch danglers that may lead to further complications and degeneration of the hip. As stated earlier, many cases of hip dysplasia are undiagnosed. If our children are diagnosed with a problem, do we not do everything we can to help them overcome their problem and give them every chance to live life to the fullest? What if your baby or child has a very mild form of hip dysplasia that is not yet known? The possibility of developing problems later in life is great. As I said earlier, prevention is key. After talking with colleagues that specialize in pediatric physical therapy, and reading posts by several chiropractors and doctors, proper baby wearing will promote proper growth and development of the hip joint. Proper babywearing places the baby or child’s hips in that V-Form I mentioned, with their knees higher than their bottom. It supports the hips and keeps the ball of the hip tight into the socket. So I ask you, do we wait to hear of our children’s pain and problems later in life or do we take steps now to give our children the steps to maximize their potential. I know where I stand.
So there you have it. If you have any questions for Carl or myself, please leave us a comment! And of course, if you are interested in a safe, comfortable baby carrier for you and your baby, visit the TMD shop for lots of great options.