When B was exactly 12 weeks old, she was fitted with a Pavlik harness due to being diagnosed only two days earlier with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). We were told to expect her to be in the harness for 12 weeks. Last week though, we were told that B no longer needed to wear her Pavlik harness as it had done its job after only 6 weeks. You can imagine how thrilled we were! I congratulated B on being such a clever girl and the physiotherapist said, “well done you as well!”
Up to then, I hadn’t realised that I’d actually done anything at all to help my baby in her Pavlik harness. However, the more I think about it, the more I realise that there were things I did do to help the harness do its job, so I thought I’d list them here for any other parents who want to increase their baby’s chances of success in the Pavlik harness.
I don’t think I can emphasise this enough. When B was fitted with the harness, we were told that she’d need to wear it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We went to the hospital every other week for her to have her harness checked and to give her a bath, but other than that, we made sure that she wore it constantly. I have read in various DDH discussion groups that some people have said they didn’t like their baby wearing it and so removed it for chunks of the day. It’s quite simple; if the harness isn’t on, then it can’t do its job.
Once B had been fitted with her Pavlik harness, I hit the shops and found as many loose-fitting smock-style rompers as I could. I made sure that whatever I dressed her in, they didn’t restrict the position of her knees in any way. This meant that her hips were kept in the exact position that the harness intended.
When B had a scan at six weeks and DDH was suspected, I was told to avoid using any slings or carriers, until we had our next scan at 12 weeks. Once DDH was confirmed at 12 weeks and the Pavlik harness was fitted, I was disappointed. Up until that six week scan, I had found my sling invaluable when caring for two under two, and I assumed that I’d no longer be able to use it with B in the harness. However, the physio saw me wearing B in the sling and approved it for use with the Pavlik harness. This is because I had B in a position where she was facing me, tummy to tummy, with her thighs were spread around my body and her hips were bent so her knees were slightly higher than her bottom.
I’m breastfeeding B, so I made sure to avoid feeding her in any position that would push her knees together. This meant abandoning a rather lovely lying-on-my-side-in-bed position in favour of the more traditional cradle hold.
When changing your baby’s nappy in the Pavlik harness, be careful not to pull their legs. Instead, slide your hand under their bottom and lift. This will ensure that you’re not pulling the hip out of joint or adjusting the position of the hips. I found using multiple wipes and rolling the nappy as I removed it, helped to avoid getting my hands covered in its contents!
Obviously, all cases of DDH are different and particular to the child. We were very fortunate that B had a mild case of DDH and only had to wear the Pavlik harness for six week. She is now 18 weeks old and will have further checks at six months and one year, to ensure that her hips have remained stable.