baby boy in pavlik harness for hip dysplasia

Five tips for caring for a baby with hip dysplasia in a pavlik harness

I didn’t think I’d be writing another post on our pavlik harness, hip dysplasia journey, before Ace’s two year check up next month. But, thanks to Millie Mackintosh opening up the conversation by revealing her daughters diagnosis, my little corner of the internet has had an influx of visitors. So I thought I’d created a quick post with lots of links to more information if needed.

Here are my top five tips for caring for a baby being treated in a pavlik harness for hip dysplasia (DDH)

1. Be kind to yourself.

I cannot say this enough- but let yourself accept how you feel and have a good cry if you need to. I felt like I was grieving for Ace’s wardrobe when he was placed in his pavlik harness. I can vividly remember sitting on the nursery floor in floods of tears over a slim fitting Zara sleepsuit. Yes it seems so materialistic and of course other parents go through much, much worse- but you have to accept how you feel. Any hurdle during parenthood that isn’t how you expected it to be is tough, but don’t ignore or feel guilty for having those feelings.

You can read my open letter to all DDH parents here.

2. Find suitable Hip Dysplasia (DDH) clothing

Well thank goodness for Marks and Spencer! They launched their Hip Dysplaia (DDH) range around the time Ace was diagnosed. The leggings fit so well around a pavlik harness without restricting movement and the vests are cut to give you lots of room in the nappy area too.

Marks and Spencer Hip Dysplasia Range
Marks and Spencer Hip Dysplasia Range

There is some independent brands on Etsy too, so make sure you take a peek here!

You can find lots more info on dressing a baby in a pavlik harness here


3. Adapt nappy changes and feeding positions

Having never changed a nappy in 30 years, I had quite the shock when I learnt two techniques in a matter of weeks! But, this one was such a game changer. We are no experts, but this is what’s helped us-

  1. Having a peek to see what you are dealing with first- no one needs THAT sort of surprise when you aren’t prepared
  2. Tuck the legs of your baby grow and bottom edge of vest under the harness/around the straps to ensure they don’t get soiled
  3. For the same reason, pop some socks or soft booties on over the harness boots- socks can be washed, the harness boots not so much
  4. Pop a clean nappy under the bottom before you remove the soiled one. We’ve got used to this since the world of double nappies, but it does help to limit the mess damage. Especially if you have a boy who likes to wee in the open air
  5. Remember to lift the bottom and DO NOT move the legs. Pulling the legs together and up works against the harness and moves the hip from the optimal position.
  6. Finally take your time when doing up the sides, you need to thread it underneath the harness which is super fiddly, but if you rush you could end up regretting it later…. Also, it might be worth moving up a nappy size if you are in between sizes to give you more nappy to manoeuvre!

I wasn’t lucky enough to breastfeed (low/zero milk supply and tongue ties- more about that here) so I can’t give any advice on breastfeeding positions, but I do know mums who have opted for the cradle or rugby ball hold positions.

Bottle feeding with a pavlik harness
Bottle feeding with a pavlik harness

For bottle feeding, I would sit Ace on my lap in a feeding cushion facing me with my knees up. Not the best, but worked for me.

4. How to make baby a little comfier in their pavlik harness

Don’t be alarmed if they seem a bit out of sorts in the first few days- it’s really normal for them to feel a bit achey and frustrated with their new positioning. Just be there to comfort them and adapt things as best you can.

We found a feeding cushion was a great support when lying down and a rolled up towel/muslin/ cellular blanket in a U shape would help to support the knees and legs especially whilst in the crib/cot.

Ace was nearing 3 months old when he was placed in his pavlik harness and so we made the transition out of the carrycot and into the reclined pushchair to ensure his legs weren’t pushed together. This was also the reason we hired a Happy Hips car seat from Maxi Cosi. I’m not sure what age they are suitable from, but I definitely believe it helped on our successful hip journey. There is a lot more information on this car seat here.

5. Ways to play

So you probably won’t be making the most of soft play and baby groups during this time (or at all at the time of writing this, cheers Covid!) but there is lots of ways to play during pavlik harness wear.

Ace really improved on his hand and eye coordination during his time in the harness, and would love holding the ‘shaky egg’, throwing a large ball and reaching for the toys on his activities arch. It’s also a great time for reading books, singing songs and those all important cuddles!

Tummy time in a pavlik harness
Tummy time in a pavlik harness

6. Yeah so I know this is my top five... but this point needs promoting more than the others. Find some support. Whether it be from a Facebook group (here) a friend of a friend whose been there, or an Instagram hashtag community. Or me. I’m more than happy to chat at ANY TIME. I’m blessed to have been in touch with so many parents over the past year, and we’ve all felt better from chatting it through. Sometimes it’s good to talk to someone who knows how you feel, and I’m here for that ♥️ You can find me on Instagram as @flicks_and_red_lips

All my love

Sian x

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