Clicky hips or DDH ( developmental dysplasia of the hip) is when the ball of a baby’s hip doesn’t sit properly in the hip socket. This means the hip is unstable.
DDH can happen at birth or develop in the weeks or months after birth. It can vary from mild to severe and it isn’t painful.
Doctors and/or Midwives routinely do a physical examination of both hips in all newborn babies in the first few days of life. Your GP or Child and Family Health Nurse will do these examinations again at six weeks and usually check your baby’s hips at every appointment in the first 12 months of your baby’s life.
In many cases though, the causes of hip problems aren’t known. But the latest research shows that if you swaddle your baby too tightly, with her legs pressed together and straight down, she may be more likely to develop hip problems.
Many of us wrap or swaddle our babies to help them feel contained and secure for settling to sleep and prevent any sleep disruption by their startle or Moro reflex ( a normal newborn reflex that is present for about the first 4 months).
It’s important to allow enough room for babies to be able to move their legs freely, so they can bend their hips up and outwards.
You can wrap or swaddle firmly ( I prefer wrapping with their arms across their body) and allow for chest flexion. Choose which way of swaddling works best for your baby. Your confidence and skills in effective wrapping will improve with practice. If you choose the more traditional wrap, I recommend 100% cotton and stretchy material ( they seem to “Houdini” out of muslin wraps in just a few weeks!) that can be used with firm tension but allows for enough movement and roomy around their hips.
Or you can purchase ready made swaddles with velcro tabs that contain their arms across their chest with cross over “wings” and make it pretty easy to get the job done, particularly in the middle of the night! Most are now made to allow that roominess around their hips. Or the “angel” style zip up swaddles are popular too.
Always settle babies to sleep on their backs, head and face unencumbered in line with safe sleep guidelines.
If your baby has any hip problems it doesn’t necessarily mean that she has DDH, but it may mean she needs additional checks or investigation and follow up.