Our daughter Lynnon’s hip dysplasia was discovered by her pediatrician during our hospital stay at her birth. The doctor was conducting the routine infant examination and mentioned that her left hip was clicking. He said that sometimes breech babies are born with loose hips. Lynnon had been breech for the entire third trimester of my pregnancy. I tried many techniques to try and get her to turn, including ice packs, elevation, and even the external version procedure. She was born by C-Section and it was apparent why she was unable to turn… she was a frank breech. Her feet were literally next to her ears, legs stretched out in a ‘pike’ position, and her bottom down.
Lynnon had an ultrasound done that same afternoon, and it showed that both of her hips were dislocated. I was shocked. I was also extremely worried about her comfort, though I was reassured that she likely felt no pain at all. We received a referral to a pediatric orthopaedist for further consultation on her hips. At 6 days old, we traveled the first of many three hour trips to meet her pediatric orthopaedist. Upon her examination, Lynnon was fitted with the Pavlik Harness. We were told she was to wear it 24 hours a day, though we could remove it for quick baths and to change outfits if needed. The straps on the harness were marked so we knew the correct positioning, and we were shown how to remove the harness without changing the abduction straps. The doctor said the harness had over a 90% success rate for infants, and she would wear it for approximately 12-18 weeks.
I had anticipated this news after doing some research about hip dysplasia. The harness seems terrifying at first. It is an unsightly and unnatural looking contraption. I was dealing with the intense hormonal change of giving birth, and the fact that there was something ‘wrong’ with my precious baby, which intensified the worries. The idea that she couldn’t be a ‘normal’ baby and had to wear this harness seemed devastating at the time. I knew that we were fortunate because there are so many other illnesses and issues that infants deal with, and our situation was relatively minor. I had a dear friend whose baby was born with a heart issue, and had been flown by helicopter in the first weeks of his life to have open heart surgery. I knew I should count my blessings for Lynnon’s overall health, but it was still hard to cope.
I cried the entire three hours for the first trip to see her specialist, and could barely speak to the doctor without sobbing. I was worried sick that the harness was going to hurt her, that we wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, etc. etc. Though I recognized and knew it was incredibly shallow, I found myself being upset that Lynnon couldn’t wear many of the cute outfits she had received as gifts. Pants were out of the question (and it was the middle of winter), and her hips were kept at such a wide angle that the only comfortable and non-bulky clothing for her to wear were onesies. I had been comforted by others who had been through the same treatment that the time goes by so quickly, and we would barely even remember her having to wear the harness. At the time, 12-18 weeks seemed like an eternity and it was hard to believe them.
I would say that the fear and anxiety about the harness wore off within the first week after her fitting. Life in the harness was never as dramatic or devastating as I imagined. Lynnon never complained about the harness. After the first week, we were pro’s when it came to weaving her diaper through the harness, or taking it off and putting it back on quickly for changes or baths. Lynnon was a little ‘bulkier’ than the normal non-harness baby, but we were still able to nurse, cuddle, and play. After a couple weeks, we were even able to make light of the situation and would sing ACDC’s “Back in the Saddle Again” each time the harness had to go back on.
As we got into the weaning stages, I even think that the harness was comforting to Lynnon at times. Putting it back on at night was almost like her way of being swaddled, or being put in a familiar position. The only negative suspicion that I had regarding the harness was that it may have made her a gassier baby, as she was not able to freely kick and move her legs to ‘work out gas’ and aid digestion. But, her gassy period lasted less than three weeks, so it may have simply been her age and immature digestive system, and a stage she would have gone through regardless.
Now, I am so thankful for the harness . In fact, I find myself thinking “I LOVE THE HARNESS!” At Lynnon’s two week follow up, her hips were no longer dislocated. At her five week follow up, her hip angles showed great improvement and she was cleared to be out of the harness for four hours a day. At her eight week follow up, both hip angles measured sixty degrees and we were cleared for twelve hours per day out of the harness. She continued to wear the harness only at night time until she was 14 weeks old, when we were officially cleared. The effectiveness of such a simple device at correcting her hips has been fascinating. We are so thankful that we have been able to avoid more invasive treatment such as surgery and a cast. Lynnon will continue to have follow-up visits with her hip doctor until she is five years old, and we have been encouraged by other success stories to believe that she will be an unrestricted, un-phased, and un-stoppable child.