What’s a Pavlik harness? Our first granddaughter has a hip problem and must wear this for up to six months (or more). I don’t recall ever hearing about anything like this with our kids.

The Pavlik harness is a special device worn over the clothing in infants and babies who have a shallow hip socket in danger of dislocation. The condition is called developmental dysplasia of the hip or DDH.

The harness was first introduced in 1946 by Dr. A. Pavlik and has been in continued use ever since. It puts the child in a frog-leg position with the hips flexed and opened wide. In this position the head of the femur (thigh bone) is in its most stable spot inside the shallow hip socket. This helps keep it from dislocating while the bone and cartilage are forming.

In mild cases parents are often instructed to double or triple diaper in place of the harness. For some babies that method works just fine. The harness offers a high rate of successful results when used correctly. It must be used early on during the first weeks after birth or as soon as the condition is discovered.

The device is worn for at least two months, sometimes longer. Then there’s a weaning period when the Pavlik harness is slowly phased out. Usually the doctor has the parents go from using the harness to double or triple diapering and gradually phasing the diapering step out, too.

If the hip won’t stay in the socket then the harness isn’t going to work. A more rigid splint will be needed.