Steps to Help Avoid Hip Dysplasia in Babies

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Important steps to avoid hip dysplasia in babies-please share
Wellness Mama » Blog » Motherhood » Steps to Help Avoid Hip Dysplasia in Babies

I recently posted on facebook a story from a brave mom who talked about her daughter’s hip dysplasia and difficult recovery. There was a tremendous response and I realized this was an area I needed to research more. I feel so blessed to have the wonderful community that has developed here at and I hope that you will help me spread the word…

Please note that I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on the internet. I’m just sharing resources that I found helpful and I encourage you to do your own research on this topic.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

According to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute:

After birth, it takes several months for the joints to stretch out naturally. Babies that have been in the breech (bottom first) position may need even more time to stretch out naturally. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. During the first few months of life the ball is more likely to be loose within the socket because babies are naturally flexible and because the edges of the socket are made of soft cartilage like the cartilage in the ear. If the hips are forced into a stretched-out position too early, the ball is at risk of permanently deforming the edges of the cup shaped socket (hip dysplasia) or gradually slipping out of the socket altogether (hip dislocation). Hip dysplasia or dislocation in babies is not painful so this may go undetected until walking age and may also result in painful arthritis during adulthood. The risk of hip dysplasia or dislocation is greatest in the first few months of life. By six months of age, most babies have nearly doubled in size, the hips are more developed and the ligaments are stronger, so are less susceptible to developing hip dysplasia.

I knew that doctors always checked baby’s hips in the early months but didn’t realize how important this was or the potentially devastating effects of hip dysplasia. As one mom shares her first hand experience:

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.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

This physical therapist explains how hip dysplasia occurs:

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.

This doctor (a pediatric specialist) further explains:

The way infants are positioned in the womb and in the first few months of life determine whether the hip can form properly. It has long been known that breech positioned babies are more prone to hip dysplasia. Similarly, babies whose legs are forced straight either by swaddling or dangling also have an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Straightening the legs places a lever-like force on the femur, encouraging the hip to pop out of the socket.

The first signs of hip dysplasia are clicking or popping of the hip joint, followed by sway back and/or limitation in range of motion of the joint. Typically pain does not occur for many years, often beginning in adolescence and persisting and worsening as the person ages. Hip dysplasia leads to degeneration of the joint, which can be incredibly painful and crippling.

And the International Hip Dysplasia Institute presents the following statistics:

The exact cause(s) are not known. However it is widely believed that hip dysplasia is developmental. This is because hip dysplasia is known to develop around the time of birth, after birth, or even during childhood. This is also why hip dysplasia is often referred to as developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH).

It is currently believed that infants are prone to hip dysplasia for the following reasons:

Hip dysplasia is approximately 30 times more likely when there is a family history.

Genetics plays a role, but is not a direct cause of hip dysplasia.

  • If a child has DDH, the risk of another child having it is 6% ( 1 in 17 )
  • If a parent has DDH, the risk of a child having it is 12% ( 1 in 8 )
  • If a parent and a child have DDH, the risk of a subsequent child having DDH is 36% ( 1 in 3 )

This means that up to 1 out of 10 newborn infants will have some hip instability if a parent or sibling already has hip dysplasia.”

What Can Parents Do?

Unfortunately, some cases of hip dysplasia are present at birth and can’t be prevented. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute explains that many cases can be made worse by improper swaddling or baby wearing.

I wear my babies often and my last little one was born breech, so this was an issue I wanted to research and take steps to help prevent.

Turns out that simple things like baby wearing, swaddling and car seats can affect baby’s proper health development.

From this physical therapists’ article:

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 baby wearing 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.

Choosing a Safe Baby Carrier

I personally love wearing baby in a sling or carrier as it allows me to safely have baby near me and still be able to walk, clean house, etc. Once I mastered nursing in a sling, I was able to get much more done! That being said, it was also very important to me to choose slings that support baby’s hips correctly, especially for my last daughter who was breech.

From my research, baby wearing itself is not the problem, only using an improper carrier. In fact, it seems that proper baby wearing can help promote proper development of the baby’s hips.

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute offers the following advice for choosing baby carriers (photo source):

Proper baby wearing to protect hips

The main idea is to choose a sling that supports the legs, taking the pressure off of the hips. It is better to avoid carriers that just support the crotch, leaving the legs to hang down and dangle in an un-natural position.

As this illustrates (photo source):

Healthy baby wearing techniques for hip stability

Slings I have personally tried that support baby’s leg and hips in this way are:

There are definitely others that will work, these are just the only ones I have tried. My favorite is probably the Ergo after 3 months and the Moby before then. Carriers like the Baby Bjorn and other crotch supporting slings don’t provide this same benefit.

Choosing a Safe Car Seat

From what I can tell, most car seats are wide enough to be safe for little ones, though I did measure and choose the widest one I could find when choosing ours.

The important thing is to look at how much space there is between where baby’s knees will be so that baby has room to spread his or her legs in the frog-like position (photo source):

Choosing a correct car seat to protect babys hips

Proper Swaddling for Hip Health

I had no idea until I started researching that swaddling can also cause problems for baby’s hips if done incorrectly. Luckily, my kids didn’t like being swaddled much, so I didn’t do this wrong very often, but there is a specific way to safely swaddle a baby. I now use large muslin blankets that breathe more easily and that provide enough room to swaddle baby the correct way (these are my favorites).

This video explains the proper way to swaddle baby:

Signs to Watch For

This article provides some good basic info on signs to watch for to make sure your little one isn’t showing signs of hip dysplasia. In short, you should check baby (and have doctor check baby) for any signs of:

  • “Asymmetry– Asymmetrical buttock creases can suggest hip dysplasia in infants but, like a hip click, an ultrasound or x-ray study will need to be done to determine whether the hips are normal or not. Find out more about Asymmetry.
  • Hip Click– Hip clicks or pops can sometimes suggest hip dysplasia but a snapping sound can occur in normal hips from developing ligaments in and around the hip joint. More about Hip Clicks.
  • Limited Range of Motion– Parents may have difficulty diapering because the hips can’t fully spread.
  • Pain– Pain is normally not present in infants and young children with hip dysplasia, but pain is the most common symptom of hip dysplasia during adolescence or as a young adult.
  • Swayback– A painless but exaggerated waddling limp or leg length discrepancy are the most common findings after learning to walk. If both hips are dislocated, then limping with marked swayback may become noticeable after the child starts walking.”

Did you know about the risks of hip dysplasia? Do you follow any of these steps? Please help spread the word…and share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


73 responses to “Steps to Help Avoid Hip Dysplasia in Babies”

  1. Kerry Broadbent Avatar
    Kerry Broadbent

    As an adult I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia which occurred as a baby. Caused a great deal of discomfort. I urge parents always to do follow up checks with health care providers. Just had total hip replacement in my fifties

  2. Anne Barrett Avatar
    Anne Barrett

    I have developmental hip dysplasia. I found out after doing aerobics for a couple of months when I was 20. High-impact exercises cause a lot of pain in my hips. In the 25 years since I found this out, I’ve realized that the one thing that has had the biggest impact on my hip pain or lack thereof is proper nutrition. Yes, if I walk a lot (and I mean, if I go for hour walks a few days a week for several weeks in a row) then I start to have some discomfort right after walking, and with certain exercises I can feel popping in my hip. I do not run or jump or wear very flat shoes with no support (the impact goes straight up my leg into my hip), but if I eat properly, I have little to no pain at all, ever. Seriously, proper nutrition. Nonetheless, this is something that mothers should be aware of. Nobody wants to know that the way they carried their infant led to a lifetime of hip problems.

  3. Mariana Avatar

    According to the displasia international institute, there are new face outward carriers approved and safe now.

  4. Ina Avatar

    Hi, am rereading this article now for the 3rd time. It is so good. I have been babywearing my 3 kiddos and the experience has been amazing. It is such a nourishing way to build loving connections with my little ones!!! And yet there is not much understanding on what is a proper position for babywearing, or so it appears as many modern carriers still advocate for one-size-fit-all, yet the size of babies changes so much from when they are infants to that of a 2 years old toddler. And what abut “facing out the baby” position? My friend Ingrid and me are working on the campaign to change the way babies are being carrier to provide a stable environment for the developing hip. We have designed the Helina Carrier, an adjustable at the width and height, Mei Tai style. We just launched a kickstarter and would love your feedback! I have been following you for years, my oldest one is 7!!! Please consider this as your input on bringing more awareness to hip health and providing the tools how to support babies hip development would be greatly appreciated:)
    In gratitude,

  5. Patricia Avatar

    Question: what are good ways to hold/ carry baby gor long periods, when they don’t want to be put down or in carrier? My baby has colic and i have to hold her all the time. Thank you

  6. Kalena Avatar

    Have you tried or heard of the solly wrap? I guess it’s similar to Moby but lighter weight material so it doesn’t get as hot to wear.

  7. Amir Abbas Avatar
    Amir Abbas

    My baby girl is suffering from hip dysplasia, she is 2.25 years old. We judge it few months earlier. He right leg is dislocated. Doctor suggest us surgery of hip. your information is very helpful to understand causes and preventions of this disease. I really appreciate your concern.

  8. Dana Avatar

    Hi wellness mama, I knkw jve asked quite a few questions on this post but wanna get the right carrier that will last my little guy the longest and good long day use… Hiking… Etc.. Have you heard of the Tula or Lillebaby??

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