When you find out that you are having a clubfoot baby, so many thoughts start running through your mind. You start to wonder how this will affect your baby. Will this impact their growth and development? Will it hurt them?
Then you start thinking about how this is going to impact you. What will breastfeeding look like with bulky casts and a brace? How am I going to change diapers? Will the brace fit into a carseat?
These are all questions that I had when I found out that my son, Ethan, had bilateral clubfoot (affecting both feet) at our 20 week ultrasound.
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What is clubfoot?
Clubfoot, also known as congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), is an extremely common congenital anomaly, or birth defect, that affects approximately 1 in every 1000 babies. It is twice as more common in boys than in girls. Your child can have clubfoot in one or both feet. It is completely treatable and, if you follow the directions given by your physician, your child will reach all of his/her developmental milestones.
Doctors mostly use the Ponseti Method for clubfoot treatment, which includes serial casting and a brace that the child will wear for the first couple of years to prevent the feet from reverting back to the club shape.
To learn more about clubfoot and the treatment process, check out my Ultimate Guide to Having a Clubfoot Baby.
What causes clubfoot?
There are many theories out there as to what causes a baby to develop clubfoot in the womb. Many doctors don’t think that genetics are involved, but they do mention that your baby is more likely to have clubfoot if someone else in the family has had it. There are also some genetic related theories that suggest that there is a correlation between people who have had clubfoot and an addition/deletion in the genetic sequence of the 17th chromosome (source). Lastly, doctors have mentioned to me as well that it could be a result of the way the baby is situated in the womb coupled with the size of the womb. Basically, there is no one answer and no one direct cause as of now.
When I found out about Baby E, I was very emotional for a couple of days. I wondered what I did that could have caused this and was thinking about the long journey he had ahead of him. I was already overwhelmed at just the thought of becoming a first time mom. But to think that now I had to be on top of his treatment plan as well as learning how to mama was scary. If I didn’t follow the treatment plan, his feet could get worse and I would be the one to blame.
After those first few days, I was able to refocus and started to think about what I would need to be the best mom for my little baby. I knew it was going to be hard to see such a tiny baby go through the physical manipulation of changing the shape of his feet, but I knew I had to be strong.
When he was born, I fell in love with his little feet and how perfectly adorable they were. The only time I cried was when we went to the doctor to have his first casts put on when he was 4 days old. I didn’t want to see him in pain or go through the struggle. But I just had to keep reminding myself that as much as I will hold onto the memories of his journey so vividly, he will never remember any of it. (Side note: make sure you document the process so you can share it with your little one when they are older!)
So when you are thinking about the challenges you may face, know that it will be way harder on you than on your baby. And if I can do anything to make it easier on you, it would be to share some of the best products for a clubfoot baby that helped make our journey simpler.
Top 10 Best Products for clubfoot babies
1. Leg Warmers
If I could say one thing that made the casting phase more pleasant, it would be these. I couldn’t stand the smell of the casts and how rough they were when I was holding Baby E. The leg warmers solved both of those problems. In addition, they are great protection to keep the casts from getting wet or dirty from diaper changes. The best part? There are so many cute styles to choose from!
2. Infant Tylenol
Ask your doctor’s permission for proper use of Infant Tylenol and to get the correct dosage. Cast changing day can be a very uncomfortable day for baby. First, you are taking the casts off, which made baby’s feet, ankles, and knees immobile for an entire week. Of course they are going to be stiff and sore! Then, the doctor needs to manipulate the shape of the foot, which is also distressing. We gave Tylenol about an hour before the casting appointment just so that Baby E could be a little more comfortable when getting his new casts.
3. Bar Cover
Once your baby passes the casting phase, s/he will get a brace consisting of boots and a bar. This is the most important and longest part of treatment. Your baby will wear this as they are getting older, and consequently, they will also be getting stronger. It didn’t take long for Baby E to start lifting his bar up to his head and banging it against the walls and floors! He loved the sound it made and loved showing off his ab strength. To prevent any head injuries and damage to your walls and furniture, a bar cover is a must! There are tons of cute options on Etsy, but you can also make your own by cutting up a pool noodle.
4. High, thin socks
When your baby enters the boots and bar phase, you will need to have a bunch of socks to wear underneath the boots. This is very important to prevent baby from the straps rubbing against the feet and getting blisters. The higher socks are the best since the boots come up well above the ankle. These are the ones that we have used and they have worked great! No blisters or rubbing on baby’s feet!
5. Suede Leather Cleaner
Accidents happen. And when you have boots for your clubfoot baby that are made of suede, you can bet that there will be a poop accident….or many. To keep baby’s boots in tip top shape, you will want to keep a suede leather cleaner on hand in the event an accident happens. This one has been awesome in removing some not so lovely stains from Ethan’s boots and keeping them looking good as new!
6. Snappie, Footless Pajamas
Whether in the casting phase or the boots and bar phase, you will definitely want to stick with footless pajamas. The casts are too bulky to use pajamas with the feet attached and the bar prevents you from putting the pajamas over them. For us, putting the pajamas underneath the boots didn’t work well either because they made 3 am diaper changes a nightmare! The footless pajamas were by far our favorite and worked for every stage. Another winner for the casting phase are these pajama gowns too.
7. Swaddle — Sleepsack
We tried a couple of different swaddles with Baby E, but nothing compared to the Woombie. Even in the womb, Ethan loved having his hands by his face. Unfortunately, traditional swaddles did not allow for this, but those hands found their way up to his mouth anyway no matter what we did. The Woombie allowed him to have his hands near his face, but still “swaddled” to calm the Moro reflex. They were perfect for both the cast phase and the boots and bar phase because of their stretchy material and lower body width. When Ethan started to roll over, we loved the wearable blankets by Halo and Burts Bee’s. Unlike others, they are super wide to accommodate for the bar and allow for easy diaper change access too.
During the casting phase, baths are a very rare occurrence! If you are lucky enough to be able to take the casts off yourself on the day of your appointment, you will be able to give baby a full bath once per week. Other than that you are stuck with sponge baths. We tried a couple of different methods for our sponge baths, but the best tool by far was to use these washcloths. Actually, they are meant to be cloth wipes for cloth diapering! They were the most absorbent and soaked up the baby soap really well. They are perfect for sponge baths and we still use them during regular baths too because they are so amazing.
An added bonus…if you have a little man who likes to let loose during diaper changes, these are PERFECT! We tried the peepee teepees and a couple of other things before just sticking with these. Honestly, nothing compares because of how absorbent they are!
9. Baby Carrier
There are so many baby carriers to choose from, but this was by far our favorite. I tried the wrap carrier early on with Ethan when he had his casts on, but it was so difficult to get him in and out because his center of gravity was displaced. Also, I felt a little unsafe with him in the wrap because of how heavy the casts were. When we were able, we started using this carrier. It was so easy to use with both the casts and the bar and made grocery shopping, errands, and housework a breeze!
10. Baby Swing
This is just a great item to have no matter if your baby has clubfoot or not! This swing was a total lifesaver because of its vibration feature and its 6-speed swing setting. We used this daily for many reasons. The reason we love this particular swing for babies with clubfoot is because of its width. It is perfect for both the casts phase and boots and bar phase and is an amazing comfort to baby.
Happy Baby, Happy Mama
So there you have it! These are my top 10 essentials for a baby with clubfoot. Being a mama is hard and adding the challenges of a baby with clubfoot does not make it any easier. These products helped us tremendously in navigating our clubfoot journey and I’m so happy I get to share them with you. I hope that you find that they make your journey easier as well! Don’t forget to add them to your baby registry=)
What are your favorite clubfoot essentials? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!
PS-Don’t forget to share!