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Jess’s Story: Babywearing Whilst Treating Clubfoot

Jess’s Story: Babywearing Whilst Treating Clubfoot

Wearing your baby close to you is a natural instinct for parents, and this need to calm and soothe is especially prevalent when the baby is in discomfort or distressed. For children with health conditions, the need to be close to a parent can be overwhelming, yet certain ailments can make babywearing a challenge. 

It can be difficult to find carriers that will allow the child to be positioned correctly, while taking account of specific needs and treatments. Here, mum of three, Jess tells the story of her babywearing experience with her son Seth, who was diagnosed with clubfoot before birth. Finding suitable baby carriers for clubfoot was difficult and so Jess sought specialist help to ensure that both she and Seth could both benefit without compromising his treatment.

"Your baby looks to have bilateral talipes..."

“My husband and I went for our routine 20 week scan in Sept 2014. During the ultrasound, the sonographer was being noticeably thorough and at the end of the scan, she put down the probe and gave us the news – “your baby looks to have bilateral talipes”. My husband is a podiatrist so knew the term; I however, had never heard of it. When my husband explained it meant clubfoot in both feet I went into complete shock (there was no history of it in either of our families). I couldn’t process the information; I was scared, upset and extremely worried about what this meant for our baby and family.

After the initial shock receded, we researched and got ourselves as clued-up as possible on the treatment of talipes. We contacted the charity STEPS and we spoke to leading clubfoot consultants and looked into the treatment at all hospitals in the South West and beyond. We joined forums, spoke with other clubfoot parents and got ourselves as prepared as we could for the arrival of our baby.

Starting treatment

Once Seth was born his treatment started almost immediately. He had his first plaster casts on at 3 days old. The treatment for clubfoot on the NHS is called the Ponseti method, which involves serial casting to stretch and manipulate the foot gradually until it is turned into a neutral position. The casts start at the groin and go down to the tips of the toes. At 6 weeks old, Seth needed a procedure called a tenotomy which is a cut to the Achilles Tendons to lengthen them. This was done under a local anaesthetic and then another cast was applied and stayed on for two weeks whilst his tendons healed. He then went into a foot abduction brace– or boots attached to a fixed bar for 23 hours a day. He was allowed an hour off daily for a bath and kick about. After 3 months in this brace, Seth went to part-time wear which is 12-14 hours a day. This means that his boots and bar are worn overnight and this will continue until he is 5 years old.

Finding a suitable baby carrier for clubfoot

Finding baby carriers for clubfoot that would meet Seth’s needs wasn’t straightforward. We were aware that the full leg casts would be heavy and we were worried about his legs dangling and his hips taking too much strain when babywearing. We then had to consider which sling would be suitable when using the boots and brace where Seth’s legs would be fixed at a shoulder-width apart. I hadn’t been able to get direct advice from the health visitor and the consultant couldn’t recommend one carrier, so I had made contact with the Plymouth Sling Library through Facebook before Seth was born. Jessie, the leader, explained that I was the first mum to approach the library with a child with bilateral talipes but she went away and did some research about the treatment and spoke to other baby wearers.

However, trying slings proved difficult as we live 25 miles from Plymouth and we weren’t getting down regularly enough to return and change the slings as required. This was when Slumber Roo was recommended to me by a local friend. I made contact with Debi and explained our situation. She went out of her way to offer me the support and advice I needed.

beco gemini - jess used this baby carrier for clubfoot babywearing
Slumber Roo made contact with babywearing expert Dr Rosie Knowles, who had direct experience in supporting parents to carry their children whilst undergoing Ponseti treatment. Debi was able to recommend a number of baby carriers for clubfoot which Slumber Roo loaned to me. We instantly fell for the Beco Gemini as my husband and I felt most comfortable in something a bit more structured We could adapt the width of the base whilst still getting Seth in a good seated position. Plus he was very settled in it which was reassuring. We used this during the casts and knew that we had the support of Debi and the Slumber Roo team who could help us if we needed to change our carrier once Seth moved into the boots and brace. That turned out not to be the case – the Beco Gemini worked perfectly for us in all stages of Seth’s full time treatment. I now use it for our newborn baby and still love it!

"Throughout his ponseti treatment, babywearing was incredibly important, to both me and Seth"

He needed lots of comfort as he found the casting and subsequent days (when the casts were still damp and heavy and possibly more uncomfortable) very distressing. He liked to be held close most of the time and the Beco Gemini allowed us to do this comfortably and effortlessly.

He was much more settled in the sling and it gave us time with our older child, hands free! I could complete tasks around our home whilst Seth slept and stayed content in the sling- he found it difficult to get comfortable on his back and we co-slept at night to try to keep him as comfortable as possible. Being able to keep him close and soothe him whilst carrying enabled me to feel I was helping him during extremely intensive treatment; he needed that security and babywearing gave it to him.

My advice to parents...

It hasn’t been an easy journey but my one piece of advice to parents who find themselves in our position is to get the right support and advice from the outset. There is misinformation out there which can be daunting and unsettling. But equally, there are incredible networks available which offer the most wonderful services to parents of clubfoot children.”

For more information about local support available in your area take a look at our directory of UK sling libraries. Or get in touch with us – whether you’d like help locating professional support or advice about which baby carriers to use, we’d love to help.