CROOKED NEWBORN FEET
A newborn’s bowed legs and feet reflect the scrunched up position of “no standing room” in the womb. The legs are normally very bowed, and the feet turn in. Since the bones were curved that way for many months inside, expect several months of free kicking before the legs and feet straighten. You can help the straightening process by not letting baby sleep in the fetal position – with feet and legs curled beneath.
Pick up those precious feet and look at the soles. It’s normal for the front of the foot to be curved in a bit. Now hold the heel of baby’s foot with one hand and gently stretch the front of the foot to the straight position. If the foot straightens easily with gentle stretching, this is normal curvature that will self-correct within a few months. To help these little feet straighten, do these stretches with each diaper change and minimize sleeping in the fetal position.
If the front of the foot is curved inward and you see and feel the following features, your doctor may suggest treatment:
- The front half of the foot is very curved in relation to the back.
- You are unable to straighten the foot with gentle pressure.
- There is a deep crease in the sole where the front of the foot begins to curve inward.
If your baby’s foot or feet (usually it’s both) have these features at birth and show no signs of self-correcting over the following month or two, your doctor may send baby to an orthopedic specialist for a simple and painless treatment called serial casting. Plaster casts resembling little white boots are placed over your baby’s feet. The doctor changes these casts every two weeks, each time straightening the foot a bit, over the course of two or three months. After the cast treatment your doctor may prescribe special shoes for a few more months to keep baby’s feet straight.
These pancake-bottom feet probably won’t last long; usually by three years the arch appears. Persistent flatfeet beyond age three may or may not need support. Here’s how to tell if flat feet are a problem. From behind, observe your child standing barefoot on a hard surface. Draw a line or place a ruler along the Achilles tendon to the floor. If the line is straight, flat feet seldom bother a child, and they require no treatment. If the line bends inward (called pronation), your child may be helped by orthotics – plastic inserts that are placed in regular shoes. These devices support the arch and heel and align the anklebones and leg bones. Although controversy exists, some podiatrists feel that treating a child with severe pronation with orthotics from approximately three years through seven years may minimize leg pains and the risk of later bone and joint deformities.