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Hip dysplasia in babies

4-minute read

Hip dysplasia (developmental dysplasia of the hip — DDH) occurs when your baby’s hip doesn’t develop normally.

What is baby hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is sometimes noticed in babies, and sometimes in children around the time they’re learning to walk.

Usually, the ball at the top of your baby’s thighbone (the femoral head) is held in a cup-shaped socket in the pelvis. The ball is held in the socket by ligaments and muscles.

In hip dysplasia, the femoral head is not in the right place and your baby’s hip will not develop correctly.

Nobody really knows what causes hip dysplasia. It is more common in babies who were in a breech position before birth. It is more common in girls than boys and can run in families.

It can also be caused by wrapping your baby tight or swaddling them, if you swaddle your baby, make sure they can bend their legs.

How would I know if my baby has hip dysplasia?

Sometimes hip dysplasia is not obvious. Doctors and early childhood nurses do regular checks to look for hip dysplasia.

They look for a baby who:

  • has uneven skin creases near the buttocks or at the front of the upper leg in the groin
  • has legs that are a different length
  • doesn’t move their legs normally
  • has a turned-out foot

And they look for an older child who:

  • sits or walks late
  • leans to one side when standing or walking
  • waddles when they walk

Your doctor, midwife or early childhood nurse can check your baby’s hips at any time, but often will check them during baby checks done:

  • at birth
  • one week after birth
  • 6 weeks after birth
  • 6 months after birth
  • when they begin to walk

Your doctor, midwife or early childhood nurse might also arrange an ultrasound or refer you to a paediatrician (children’s doctor).

What treatment will my child need?

Treatment varies depending on your baby’s age and how severe the condition is.

If hip dysplasia is picked up at birth, your baby could wear a soft brace (a Pavlik harness) or a plaster cast for up to several months. This helps the hip develop normally. Babies with braces usually have regular ultrasounds to check their progress.

Some babies will need an operation to put the femoral head back into the socket. This is more common if babies are diagnosed after 6 months of age. Sometimes further surgery may be needed.

Your baby’s hips should develop normally after treatment. Your doctor will monitor your child for rare problems such as arthritis.

Where to get help

If you think your baby might have hip dysplasia, speak to your doctor. For help and support with caring for your baby if they need a harness, you can speak to a maternal child health nurse at Pregnancy, Birth and Baby using video call or the telephone on 1800 882 436.

You can also learn how to:

  • breastfeed your baby in a harness
  • wrap your baby so that their legs are able to bend at the hips
  • position your baby in the harness
  • change your baby’s nappy
  • bath your baby while in the harness

Read more about hip dysplasia on the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network and the International Hip Dysplasia Institute websites.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022


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Need more information?

Hip dysplasia | Australian Breastfeeding Association

What is hip dysplasia?

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Hip dysplasia or DDH: babies & children | Raising Children Network

Developmental dysplasia of the hip affects the hip joint in babies and young children. Health professionals check for DDH at birth and for the first year.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is DDH? DDH occurs when a baby’s hip joint does not grow normally

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Hip abduction orthosis | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

The Dennis Brown Hip Abduction Orthosis is used to hold a child's hips in an optimal position

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Perthes' disease - Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

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Baby carrier, sling & backpack safety | Raising Children Network

When choosing a baby carrier, sling or backpack, look for healthy hip positioning for your baby. Use the T.I.C.K.S. rule to position babies safely in slings.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Swaddling your baby

Swaddling or wrapping your newborn baby can help settle them to sleep and reduce awakenings.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Wrapping or Swaddling Babies | Red Nose Australia

Read more on Red Nose website

Clubfoot in babies & children | Raising Children Network

Clubfoot is when a baby’s foot points downwards and inwards. It’s a structural problem and needs early treatment. Clubfoot is also called talipes equinovarus.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Orthotist/prosthetist: for parents & kids | Raising Children Network

Your child might see an orthotist/prosthetist if parts of her body need extra support or protection, or she needs an artificial limb. Read more.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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