Pavlik Harness Life & Our Top Tips to Thrive!

With our little girl now completely harness free, we wanted to share our experiences and top tips we discovered along the way to help you hit the ground running. We hope you find it helpful!

When we went to get the harness fitted the nurse told us its worse for the parents than the baby. Although we are both quite positive and didn’t let it get to us, I can understand how you may be upset about it. Our outlook was that it was fixable in a relatively short amount of time and there is plenty of other, much worse things that could be wrong. I am not ashamed to say my one wobble I had about our little lady being in a harness was not being able to dress her up in certain things, such as trousers and tights!

After just getting used to changing nappies and finally nailing breastfeeding after a few extra days in the hospital, we went and had the harness fitted and realised that we had to change how we were doing things! We were worried that we would be back to square one, especially with the breastfeeding, but it was fine with a little tweaking, here’s how we did it…

Feeding

I will be honest, being my first child, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when it came to breastfeeding! When my milk kicked in and our little one struggled to latch to my now very full boobs we ended up back at the hospital trying to find positions that she would latch from. After a couple of days we had it sussed and we were about to be discharged home again and then we had the harness fitted. It was then I realised that all the hard work from the previous few days was out the window as we couldn’t get her in the positions any more with her legs splayed! After quite a few phone calls to various breastfeeding specialists, the midwives suggested trying to feed her sitting up.

The extra back support the harness provides meant that this was a lot easier than usual, and it ended up being the most comfortable for both of us, I preferred it to all the previous positions after only a few tries! I found that it made feeding out and about much easier too and our little girl has had great head and neck control from an early age and I do believe that this has something to do with it, as well as the extra support the harness provides overall.

Changing nappies

It makes the nappy changing a little more fiddly that’s for sure, threading the tabs through the straps, but you soon get used to it. The only thing I’ve found is you cant get the nappy as high as normal as the straps prevent you putting it quite high enough. This does lead to a few extra pooplosions! Towards the end of our harness journey we discovered that using the next size up nappy did prevent some of these… I wish I had know that earlier!

You cant lift both legs in one hand! We tended to just lift one leg and tilt her! Be warned though – the legs can still kick and get their feet in the dirty nappy!
Top tip! Poo bags over the feet when changing a messy nappy stops them getting dirty.

When you do have pooplosions – I’m sure you will at some point! Baby wipes are your best friend, I am confident they probably will be anyway! If you do end up having to try and had wash it then a hairdryer on cold setting should help you dry it quickly. If you have it on hot then the harness crinkles and shrinks in that area a bit so I would try an avoid it where possible!

Comfort for you and your little one

With the requirement to get your little one weighed often in those early days the most useful thing we found was knowing the weight of the harness so this could be deducted from her weight, meaning we didn’t have to take it off every time. The nurse who fits the harness should be able to give you this weight.

The harness has a few sticky out bits that easily catch on anything and everything! We used to put socks over the feet to keep them clean and stop us catching the Velcro bits. One great thing – no need for sock on’s whilst using the harness, it helps keep them on. Now we are forever putting socks back on when she has kicked them off!

Plaster tape that you will find in your first aid box will also help stick down the bits that you wont need to keep undoing and adjusting, preventing you from catching them on clothes etc and from your little one catching themselves too! The Velcro is so annoying, especially catching on woollen items such as hand made blankets and jumpers, it pulls all the fibres!

Clothing

A vest under the clothing will help prevent the harness from rubbing your little ones delicate skin, although this does become annoying when you have a pooplosion. We found that we only started doing this if she started getting sore.

Romper style clothes were the best fit with the harness without having to buy specially designed and expensive clothes – just pull the socks up higher/get longer socks to help keep those legs warm. Also, using the next size up works well for sleepsuits etc. You just need things a little wider.

We used a growbag that swaddled the top and this was great, it just swaddles the top but not the bottom so still allows the harness to work properly. The usual 0-3 month one was fine.

I’m afraid trousers that you pull up and tights are out of the question, things that popper up under the legs work well but again you might need a bigger size. I found that using the next size up clothing meant I had to move a few buttons on things like dungarees as the length was too long up top but thing wasn’t too much hassle.

So that’s what we learnt on our pavlik harness journey, I hope this will help some of you who are just starting or part way through your journey. Don’t panic, its not as bad as it first seems! Good luck! Please comment with any other tips to help our readers!

Hip dysplasia

After just a day of having our gorgeous baby girl she was diagnosed with Developmental Hip Dysplasia following her routine newborn physical examination. We wanted to share our experiences and what its like living with a newborn with hip dysplasia to help others in the same situation. Hopefully we can help ease the worry that parents feel in this horrible situation when you have been told your baby has something wrong as isn’t quite the perfect little munchkin we all imagine.

I’ll be honest – I’d never heart of hip dysplasia in humans, only in dogs from watching Supervet!”

I think witnessing the examination was one of the worst bits! Seeing the nurse move her legs around and her little hip pop out of place, hearing her crying, my heart ached! We were told she would need an ultrasound and within the hour we were taken down to the ultrasound department. She had bilateral hip dysplasia, meaning it was affecting both of her hips. 

We didn’t have a clue what it meant for the future for our little girl. Is she in pain? Can it be fixed? How much would it effect her? Would she be able to walk?

So what is Developmental Hip Dysplasia? (Also called Developmental Dysplasia of the hip and you may also see it shortened to DDH.)

(Image thanks to www.hipdysplasia.org)

Your hip joint connects your leg to your pelvis and is what is known as a ‘ball and socket’ joint. Developmental hip dysplasia is basically where the ball and socket hasn’t formed properly – the ‘socket’ in the pelvis is too shallow and so the ‘ball’ at the top of the leg isn’t held in place and can dislodge/dislocate. If only one hip is affected then it is called unilateral, when both hips are affected it is bilateral hip dysplasia.

The statistics at the time of writing this (2018) is that it affects about 1 in 1000 babies and is more common in firstborn children and girls. It is also more common in babies that were in the breech position during pregnancy. It can also be genetic, with it being 12 times more likely if there is a family history of dysplasia.

For more information on hip dysplasia check out the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

Some answers…

Earlier I listed the main questions we had when we first found out. Now I have explained a little about what Developmental Hip Dysplasia is I will tell you the answers we have discovered to these questions:

  • Is she in pain? – The simple answer – Nope. At such a young age it causes no pain whilst they are just laying there not able to do much.
  • Can it be fixed? – Yes! Don’t panic – in the majority of cases, especially those caught early, it is fixed before they are trying to walk! I will explain a little about treatments below.
  • How much would it affect her and will she be able to walk? – If treatments work then it shouldn’t affect the overall mobility of the child as they grow older. However without treatment then it could result in a limp, hip pain and painful and stiff joints. They can still kick around and move their legs in the harness, and should! The only thing they can’t do is roll over.

Treatments

There are both surgical and non-surgical treatments dependant on the severity and how the hip is formed, but don’t panic! In my experience they prefer to go down the non-surgical route if they can.

It seems the most common type of treatment is a Pavlik Harness, especially in the UK. This is a specially designed harness that gently aligns the baby’s hips into a secure position to encourage the socket to naturally deepen and develop as it should. This is the treatment I know the most about as this is what our little girl is in, so this will be the focus of the rest of the post. There are other non-surgical treatments which are more prevalent in other countries I believe.

Surgical methods are more often used if the child is diagnosed after it is 6 months old or if non-surgical treatments haven’t had the desired effect.

Again, for more information you can look at the NHS website or the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

So, what does a Pavlik Harness look like?

Well here is one of my favourite photos of our little girl and all she is wearing her harness and a nappy.

The harness is made up of straps with Velcro so it is adjustable as they grow. It keeps their legs at 90 degrees out to the side to aid the joints the form properly. Every week we go and see the lovely nurses at the orthopaedics department of our local hospital who check there are no problems with the harness and adjust it as she grows, marking on the harness where the straps go to, so when we take it off we know where to put them back to.

Everyone I talk to who has a child in a pavlik harness has different things prescribed for them by their consultant. Our little girl was allowed 30 minutes a day out of her harness, but others aren’t allowed any time out at all so make sure you follow your practitioners recommendations! I won’t lie, on a couple of occasions we have had her out for a little longer, for our photoshoot for example, but then we would not take it off the next day. It doesn’t seem to have had any impact on the harness working, but we have only done it a couple of times and made sure we didn’t make a habit of it.

I hope this has given you an oversight of hip dysplasia, my next post is about day to day living with a harness. Watch this space!