Juliana was born with mild hip dysplasia. She showed no signs of it during her first exam by a pediatrician, but we were asked to have an ultrasound test of her hips because my husband’s family comes from Brittany. We later found out that this is a common problem for women in Brittany so baby girls are routinely checked right away.
At 6 weeks old, Juliana was required to wear a hip brace. The type of brace she was prescribed is a Frejka pillow. There is a sturdy foam slab that fits between her thighs to keep her legs spread apart. This way the ball in her hips can development in the right place.
We received the hip brace two days before our trip to Florida and found it was complicated to use. She did not fit in her car seat with it and it would have been complicated at the airport to carry her without the use of my Moby scarf. Once we got to Florida, we tried using it but we were always driving places and she was extremely cranky with it. I have 100 excuses why I did not use it that month and wish we followed doctor’s orders. I think I was just too tired and stressed that an upset baby would have thrown me over the edge, so I did not think things through properly.
After arriving back in France, we scheduled another ultrasound to see how her hips were doing. The radiologist said that it looked like one hip was better and the other still had the problem. He referred us to the public hospital because there was a specialist there for hip dysplasia in children. We scheduled the appointment immediately and were happy to hear that Juliana was getting better without the brace being used consistently.
At the CHU in Caen, we received contradictory news. We had another ultrasound and an x-ray done of her hips. She still had the problem in both hips and required another month of using the brace. This time, we followed the doctor’s orders vigilantly. We only removed the brace for changing diapers and baths. Once in a while I gave her extra time without the brace while changing her diaper so she can have some belly time.
We moved from Normandy to Provence after three weeks of her wearing the brace consistently. The drive took us two days and one night. This meant that Juliana went two days without her brace since she could not fit in the car seat with it. Upon arrival in Banon, we had a lot of driving around to do, so more time without the brace. She wore the brace inconsistently for about a week.
Right away, we took her to a new specialist for another checkup. We were told that the closest place was Aix-en-Provence – 1.5 hours away. We had an x-ray done and the doctor said she would need another 4 weeks of continual use. This, of course, meant we can only take it off her in case of diaper changes or baths. This time we did not even give her any playtime without the brace, except one time when I had to wash it. Darn pee explosion.
We were supposed to wait to take another appointment until 4 weeks after the last appointment, but we ended up taking an appointment at 3 weeks. We found out that we could have it done in Manosque, only 30 minutes away. We had an x-ray done and met with the new orthopedic surgeon. At first, he said Juliana would need the brace for at least two more months. My heart sank. He did a physical examination of her and noticed that we use washable diapers. He changed his mind.
The doctor said that washable diapers are like having a brace since they are sturdy and hold her legs in a good position. Since she only uses washable diapers, he said that she should wear the brace only at night. The main reason for wearing it at night is so that she does not turn onto her side when she sleeps.
The bad news turned into mediocre news. It is good that she does not have to wear that awful brace anymore during the day, but it is too bad she is not completely better. We still have to be mindful that her legs are always kept spread apart and never close together.
In hindsight, I really wish purchased a new car seat from the beginning. I am buying a new car seat now because it just occurred to me how bad ours actually was after researching what other ones have to offer. If we had a better car seat, she could have worn her brace more. At least her washable diapers protected her hips without us realizing it. It is normal for babies to go as long as 6 months in this brace and Juliana has it off at 4.5 months. So while I feel guilty, at least we were lucky that she was wearing the washable diapers.
If your baby has hip dysplasia, please do not do what we did – follow your doctor’s orders. The sooner you start using it, the less time your child has to be in it. It was uncomfortable for her and she could not have real time to try and crawl or stand, so you want to cave in and make her happy. This was one of the hardest things we had to do, especially when she would look at us with tears in her eyes, pleading to not put it back on her.