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Hip dysplasia

What is hip dysplasia?Ruby and Rachael

Hip dysplasia, a condition more common in girls, refers to abnormal development of the hip joint. In hip dysplasia, the hip socket is too shallow so it doesn’t hold the top of the child’s femur (leg bone) properly. A variety of treatment options are available, and these vary according to the child’s age and the severity of the condition.

Here are some hints for breastfeeding a baby in a cast, harness or brace.

Awkward but possible

Remember that even if it initially feels awkward, you can still breastfeed a baby in a cast, harness or brace.

Attachment is important

Make sure that your baby is attached well to the breast. This can help prevent nipple pain and damage.

Slings are helpful

Slings can be helpful when breastfeeding, especially if you wear a shirt with buttons. Front and back slings are best when carrying babies in a harness, cast or brace. Placing a bunny rug between you and your baby can also help. Side and shoulder slings are often not safe enough since there is not enough of their bottom to tuck the sling around. Please check with a paediatric physiotherapist to be sure.

Choose a comfortable positionHarness

1. Seated straddle position

Sit your baby on your knee, facing your breast. Support her/him behind the shoulders and body. You may need to use a footstool to support your foot and to bring your baby up to the height of your nipple. This position even works well with young babies.

2. Cradle position

Lie your baby across your lap. Cross your leg or use a pillow for extra support and cushioning. Ensure the harness, brace or cast doesn’t dig into you or your baby. Tilt your baby towards your breast and support your baby with a pillow or thick rolled-up towel or bunny rug.

If your baby is small, you could hold her/him across your chest with an arm between her/his legs and up her/his back.

If your baby is older, try supported her/him by placing her/his lower leg between your knees and supporting her/his upper leg with your arm and/or shoulder.

3. Football hold

This is often a great position for babies with hip dysplasia. Make sure you have extra pillows beside you to support your baby’s head. A foam wedge can be used to incline your baby towards your breast.

4. Lying down

Feeding while lying down can be really comfortable for both you and your baby. There are three main options.

    • You can use pillows to support you while you semi recline with baby on your chest.
    • Your baby can lie on his/her tummy with his/her head turned slightly to meet your breast as you lie on your side.
    • Your baby can lie on his/her back with you lying on your side.

Look after your own back and neck

Since a plaster cast can both add extra weight and dig into your waist or hips, take care to avoid extra back and neck strain. Why not look after your own body by giving some of these tried and tested strategies a go.

Try using extra pillows or rolled-up towels to support your posture during feeds. This can help carry some of the added weight of a cast, harness or brace.

A boomerang pillow or rolled-up bunny rug, wrapped around your waist, can both support your baby and prevent a harness, cast or brace from digging into you.

Breastfeeding in a wide chair without arms allows extra room for the baby’s cast, harness or brace. Feeding on a lounge also offers extra width and cushioning while often being more comfortable than a chair.

Further resources

  • Telephone counselling is available via the 24-hour national ABA Breastfeeding Helpline: 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268).

  • The international hip dysplasia institute’s website provides information sheets and photos. It also features a US-based forum (

  • The book Parents Guide to Hip Dysplasia by Betsy Miller.

    © Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed June 2016

Last reviewed: 
Jul 2016