Our first son had just turned one, we were happy that we made it through our first year of parenting, and to find out another one was joining our tribe was nothing short of exciting, nerve racking, scary – in all the best ways! With every stage of pregnancy, there were milestone: I am 12 weeks, we can announce; second midwife appointment, maybe we will hear the heartbeat; 18 weeks, we can find out the gender of our baby! I know I am not alone in considering the 18 to 20 week ultrasound the gender reveal ultrasound, but in reality it is the point in your pregnancy where your health care providers are taking a detailed look at your baby, to track and assess their health and development in the womb. This is the ultrasound that my husband and I found out our baby had a clubfoot.
A clubfoot, also known as congenital talipes, is a birth defect in which the foot is twisted out of shape or position. It is rare, effecting fewer than 200,000 babies born in the US per year.
The initial shock of finding out this diagnosis is a distant memory, and with supportive information from a great team of medical providers before our baby was born, we knew we would be totally fine! For those of you reading this who may get a diagnosis like this, I’m here to tell you, it’s going to be okay! Here are some tips from my experience caring for a baby with clubfoot:
You are not alone
Although statistics tell us that clubfoot is rare, I have to tell you, at least once a week in my travels, someone would see my baby’s brace and would mention that they had a friend or close family member who has a clubfoot. Right in my own professional circle, LLC’s beloved Ashley was born with a club foot as well as her son! That can’t be a coincidence! She has been a great support and resource for me along the way.
It is correctable and not life threatening
In a nutshell, the process of correcting a clubfoot is a series of casts that stretch and reposition the foot, our baby only needed two casts, however in more severe cases kids may be casted weekly for severals weeks before the foot takes on normal position and shape. After the casts, in most circumstances, the kiddos need a minor surgery called an Achilles tenotomy where the surgeon cuts the tendon attached to the heal to lengthen it. After the surgical procedure is healed, baby is in a brace full-time until they are around 5 or 6 months, and then part-time until they are 3 years old. Make sure you find a doctor that is properly trained in the specifics of clubfeet, so you can feel confident in the treatment they suggest.
You’ll have a lot of doctors appointment, but in the scheme of things, it’s no big deal!
I consider myself so lucky to have a baby with a clubfoot versus so many other things that could perhaps be wrong with my baby. Walking through the halls of Children’s Hospital with my kiddos, en route to our orthopedic appointments, I see so many strong, amazing families caring for babies and children with health concerns.
Remember that your baby doesn’t know any different
My son was put in his first cast at under 2 weeks old and was in his Mitchell Brace at around 1 month old. So he doesn’t know life any other way than having a metal contraption strapped to his body.
Laugh off silly things people say…
“Did you drop your baby? Did he break his leg?”
“He’s cranky because the brace is uncomfortable”
I think the “poor baby” comment bothered me the most, but I quickly realized that it is not worth worrying about others’ opinions as it is typically out of well-intended ignorance.
Nursing, baby-wearing and co-sleeping are still possible
Although the cast and brace are heavy and cumbersome, they certainly will not interfere with your ability to breastfeed your baby.
Baby-wearing was huge for me. With a toddler running around, I needed a way to be hands-free. With the green light from our doctor, baby-wearing a few hours a day/or as needed did not interfere with the correction process.
In the early weeks, I am a swaddler. Wrapped as tight as can be, I believe babies sleep and transition better, BUT, I had to find a swaddle sack that would fit a brace. I had success with Halo Sleep Sacks
or wrapping baby’s arms in a muslin blanket and keeping his legs and brace out. To keep those tootsies warm through the winter months, cutting tiny slits in the back of booties like these
were a lifesaver for us or in footed pjs!
Your baby will still roll, crawl and walk typically around the same time as a baby without clubfoot
Our son’s orthopedic doctor was quick to tell us that this would in no way inhibit his developmental milestones. Right around the time that he started to gain interest in rolling, at the 5 month mark, was when he transitioned from 23 hours of brace wear (full time) to 12-16 hours of brace wear (naps and night sleeping only) therefore he had the freedom to explore plenty of tummy time, roll all over, sit on his own, crawl, etc.
Although not all journeys are the same, and in some circumstances, clubfoot babies may need additional surgeries or different medical approaches as they get older along the way, know that you are not alone and that your child will still be able to do everything you dreamed for them!
If you would like to talk to Ashley at Little Lovage Club about her experiences, please don’t hesitate to reach out, [email protected].