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. Dana Avatar

    Hi! I recently saw that there is an ergo baby carrier where you can put baby in front of you but facing outward so there back is on your front side?? Wondering if that’s even a good position for baby to be?? Thankyou in advance for any tips 🙂 trying to find a good carrier. Also…. Not sure where to post this but I tried on your recipe for pesto linguini and it won’t let me… My question is what some of the ingredients are… It looknlike some are missing from the recipe .. Just wondering so I can make it 😉

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I have seen these carriers (I think you mean the 360 version) and it looks like it still supports the baby’s legs properly in the outward-facing position (rather than allowing them to dangle). They don’t recommend using the outward facing position until the baby is over a certain age, too, which I think is safer.

      1. Dana Avatar

        Ok Thankyou!! Is that ok on mom or dads body? Like your back? Do you ever carry that way or just the normal facing you on the front or on your back?…

  2. Dana Avatar

    Hi wellness mama! I know this doesn’t have anything to so with wraps.. But wondering what your take in baby walkers, bouncers and door bouncers are? Do you think they help aid in babies to learn to stand and walk or inhibit, and other ways to help them?… Thanks for any advise in this area 🙂 !!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      The jury seems to still be out somewhat, but there is some evidence that they can be harmful to the hips as well because they lead to unnatural posture.

      1. Dana Avatar

        Thanks! One other question I’ve been trying to research and find out is if it is ok to let your infant sleep in a swing or carseat? Or even just to sit in a swing for a while? Some places are saying no and some say it’s fine..

  3. Dana Avatar

    Hi! Wondering if you have ever heard of or tried the boba wrap? And what you think of that one? I’m trying to find a good one that will also support head for my three week old and then a good one for down the road.. Thanks for any help!!

  4. Emma Avatar

    thanks for this article, i just want to share my story here, when my baby was 6 weeks, i told by her doctor that her right hip is clicking , she also had uneven creases on that leg, they send us to a hospital children and the specialist also confirmed the clicking, he told us we need ultrasound to make sure everything is fine, it was very stressful and i was crying for 3 weeks, day and nights.finally we had the ultrasound and everything was normal, at her 8 month X-ray also everything was normal, Thanks God .

  5. Barbara Avatar

    I was super afraid of using swaddle blankets at first but it just helped my son actually sleep. I found that around 3 months old, he was big enough for me to switch him to the Zipadee-Zip. Its wingspan shape gives him mobility and my fear of his hips being negatively impacted went away.

  6. Mila Avatar

    I swaddled for a bit and then switched to a zipadee-zip. It worked better for us, because it’s easier and our son loved it. It’s great that there are so many options these day, if swaddling feels too risky.

  7. Violet hara Avatar
    Violet hara

    I have a baby who is 14 months old and was diagnosed with a hip dislocation and we took her to the hospital and they wore her a p. O. P for 2months,after which it was removed and checked that the born has gone into position and we were told to go for review after 4weeks only to be told that the hip has moved away from the normal position. What can I do now?

  8. Ash Avatar

    My son is 3 months and he’s fine with being in the Moby wrap for a few minutes or if he’s tired. I loves looking around. I’ve been looking up different positions. The hip hold looks ok to me, but I can’t find anything on it to say whether it’s a good position for children. Have you come across any research about the hip hold? He’s 15 lbs btw. Thanks!

  9. Babylyn Avatar

    Thank you for the i information!! My daughter is diagnosed with hip dysplasia had a surgery and now in brace… Hoping that she be able to walk soon!!!

  10. Pris Avatar

    It is so scary to think that I could cause my baby to have hip problems, if I swaddle him incorrectly. I think with my next baby I will just use the Zipadee-Zip from the start, instead of just to transition from the swaddle. It just seems safer to me.

  11. Mary Avatar

    I am a mother of 5 month old girl..At four month I noticed that my little one has uneven buttock creases and we are planning to go to a doctor to confirm whether she has hip dysplasia or not… I am so much worried about that now…I used to hold my baby in upright position since she I was 3 moth old…I suspect whether that position affected my child or not..I need help ..Pls help me…plsss

  12. Ana Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I came across this article on Dr. Mercola’s website the other day and I was wondering if you were aware of it too.

    According to your research is the Diono the least toxic? Is it only a certain make of theirs or is it the whole line? I’m just needing to come to a decision soon on which car seat to buy and it’s been so difficult! Thank you for all your helpful advice!

  13. Katherine Jameson Avatar
    Katherine Jameson

    Thank you Katie for posting this! This was such helpful information for me! Last year when I was learning about hip dysplasia, your description of the large, breathable muslin blankets helped me to find the Zipadee-Zip. He legs are able to move around freely and I don’t fear of putting him at risk for hip dysplasia. Glad to have found this great option, and thanks for the tip as my son loves it!

  14. Ana Avatar

    Thank you so much for your helpful posts! After all the research you did on car seats for your children/babies I wondering which ones you recommend.

  15. Ashley Avatar

    Swaddle! It works! I have found that most of the negative discussion about swaddling revolved around fear that the tightness of a swaddle could possibly cause joint problems. There may be some evidence into this, however swaddling is really effective in helping babies to sleep because it mimics the environment of the womb. It has been used throughout history because it works. They really do need to be held tightly. It’s what they have been used to for 9 months! The snugness of a swaddle calms them. There are many options out there but I have used swaddles from My LO loves his Zipadee-Zip! I recommend you try swaddling. Trust me a your baby will tell you when they no longer want to be swaddled and need to be transitioned out of it. I hope this helps!

  16. Kim Avatar

    Hi, Katie! I have found such a connection to your blog. (You had me when I found out your parents are hard-of-hearing; I am a sign language interpreter.) As the mom of 17- and 19-year-old boys, I wish I’d had this info when I was pregnant. I had hip dysplasia and had 2 osteotomies at 3 and 8 years of age at a Shriners’ Hospital. I had a total hip replacement when I was 36. I’d always assumed that what happened to me was an anomaly. I was blissfully ignorant when my babies were babies, and thankfully, they are fine. You can bet I’ll pay close attention if ever I am blessed with grandchildren.

  17. Stephanie Avatar

    My daughter was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia as a three month old. I was devastated!!! we were told she had a severe case. We were told hers was genetic (Something she will later have to watch for with her children). She had surgery at 5 months old and then remained in a half body cast for an additional 12 weeks (with a cast change in between) her diagnosis included a minimum of three surgeries and years of physical therapy. Praise God tho because when she came out of the cast she only needed a brace and 8 weeks of therapy. The surgery was a huge success. she is now 7 years old and the most active pain free child we have in the house.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      If you don’t mind me asking, what were your daughters symptoms as a three month old? I’m concerned my almost 4 month old son may have hip dysplagia.

  18. Ronni Lynn Avatar
    Ronni Lynn

    My daughter was diagnosed with HD at birth. She was in the Pavlic Harness until 6 months old… Several ultrasounds and 6 months later and her hips looked great… Great movement and so forth the Specialist and Radiologist stated.. She is now almost 8 months old and has not seemed to have any problems, and is even trying to stand/walk.. I took her to the pediatric orthopedist two days ago for a checkup and had an X-ray done and the X-Ray showed that the cartilage has not yet started to turn into bone as much as it should due to her age according to the Dr. Im so upset 🙁 ….We were given the pavlic harness to wear once again, and she is having a really tough time this go around…the first several ultrasounds that were done did not show improvement (only so slightly), but on the 6 month one All of a sudden everything looked great… The Dr. said that her development of the hips were just a little slow in delay of growth, but that we could do away with the harness for now…. So now 2 months later the cartilage is not turning into bone…. Why??? Has this happened to anyone else…. Im about to have a meltdown… I am so sad for my sweet baby… Please help me..

  19. Sian Avatar

    Dear Katie, I just wanted to thank you and congratulate you on your blog. It is always an excellent resource for me. You do a wonderful job of researching and write your information well. My children are all in their mid-teens now but I find your site very helpful in finding natural or ‘safe’ ways to care better for my day care children. Thankyou, Sian

  20. Kelly Avatar

    I am worried now. I used a ‘snugglie’ baby carrier where legs dangle. Didn’t use it much, but it was a life saver when my older daughter had a soccer tournament in Traverse City when the baby was 3 months old. I notice when she dangled, her legs would turn a pinkish color and it worried me and I would take her out. When she was littlier, she would cry when the hubby changed her diaper and lifted her hips up. .He thought he wasn’t being gentle enough. I hope she is okay. She is 13 months now and starting to walk. It looks like she waddles, but I thought all babies walked like that. I will have to see when she gets proficient. My oldest (12), I had no clue of any of this. I hope she is okay too. I feel like the more I learn, the more I did wrong!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      If you have been taking her to regular doctor checkups she should be fine. They always check for dysplasia, and if it were a concern they would bring it up. I could make a list 10 miles long of all the stuff I wish I knew or did differently with my kids… I think every mom does 😉

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