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Adjusting To Your Baby’s Boots and Bar
I was not prepared for the struggle of Little E’s BnB (clubfoot community lingo for boots and bar).
It’s not like I hadn’t read up on it before we went. I read about the mommas and papas saying it was a hard adjustment. But it didn’t sink in until the first night.
Now, before I tell you about our first night with his boots and bar, I have to tell you about his nights before that.
Starting at about 4 weeks old, Little E was sleeping all the way through the night. I had absolutely nothing to do with this…we just plain lucked out! Our little man would sleep from 10 all the way to 6 or 7. It was b…e…a…utiful!
Then came his boots and bar.
That first night, he woke up every hour.
And it wasn’t just a gentle fuss…it was full-on crying.
If you remember in Part 2 I talked about struggling with God about Little E’s casts. The first few nights with his BnB involved a lot more of this.
There were many times I was crying right along with my little boy, asking God why he had to suffer this way.
Again, the Lord comforted my heart by reassuring me that He was present with me in this situation, and more importantly, He was present with Little E in his pain and frustration. One prayer that helped me greatly during this time was the Prayer To Accept God’s Will. Find it here.
I could go on and on about our sleeping struggles, but that would be an entire post in and of itself. (Which it is! Read about sleeping with BnB and how we helped our little one, here).
There were three main issues other than sleeping that we had to deal with while adjusting to Little E’s new constant companion: discomfort, slippage, and maneuvering.
If any of you have ever been snowboarding, you know that it is not the comfiest thing in the world to have your feet strapped to a board. Now imagine that 23/7! (Remember from Part 4 that they can have 1 hour of “free-time” each day.)
On top of that, your feet are angled out at anywhere from 45 to 60 degrees. And stuck there.
This is what it is like for your little one with their BnB. (Even while sleeping, which deserves its own post!)
And what’s more, it’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes, which often means blisters.
Little E did get a couple of sores the first few days wearing his new boots and bar, even with long socks.
Here are some things you can do to help your little one with comfort as best you can:
- Check for blisters right away
The first day your little one wears the boots and bar, take it off after 1 hour and check for sores. Then wait 2-3 hours and check again. Keep increasing the amount of time between each check. This will gradually help your little one become accustomed to wearing them for 23 hours straight.
- Preventing blisters
First, long, thick socks are very helpful. They add extra padding around the foot and also help with slippage problems. Second, some parents have added makeup applicators under the tongue of their child’s boot. We have never done this, as the few blisters that Little E got were on his heel and not the top of his foot. But I can totally see this helping those kiddos who do get blisters there! Third, do not use any kind of ointment or lotion on your child’s foot. Even if their skin feels dry, the ointment and lotion can cause the skin to be more easily rubbed and irritated, leading to more blisters.
- When you do find a blister
There are a few things that can help.
First, again, do not use any kind of topical skin treatment….this can irritate the skin. It also makes the blister softer which can lead to it popping more easily…not fun!
Second, use thick socks. Search for baby socks that are thicker than the ones your little one is wearing now. These can help provide padding for the existing blisters and help prevent new ones. You can also just double up on thinner socks, but this can create more potential for your little one to slip out.
Third, moleskin or gauze with a band-aid can give the blister time to heal. It usually takes 2-3 days for it to heal completely. Make sure to replace the gauze/bandaid at least twice a day to keep it sanitary.
Discomfort also caused us to regress a lot during Tummy Time. The key here was to simply go back to the tricks I used to get him to like Tummy Time in the first place. (Read about those here.)
Little E has been in his boots and bar for almost a month now. When he first had them, he would cry right away in Tummy Time. Now, he is happy for ten to fifteen minutes. Just keep persevering!
The first day we brought Little E home with his brace, even after the clinician himself had put it on, he slipped out of his left boot at least 7 times.
This continued on for several days as we figured out how to keep that darned thing on! It was like his left foot was a little Houdini….it didn’t seem to matter what we tried, he would always find a way to wriggle that thing out of his boot.
He didn’t have this problem with his right foot (the clubfoot). I think it might be because he was used to not wiggling it due to all the casts…I’m not sure.
Here are some things you can do to help your little one stay in their boots:
- Not too loose, not too tight, just right!
If your baby’s boots are on too loose, then they will be able to slip out of them easily. This is pretty common sense.What might not be as obvious is that if they are too tight they will slip out too!Our first response to Little E slipping out of his boots was to make the straps tighter. However, the tighter we made the straps, the more our little man wriggled and struggled against his boots….and the more he succeeded in pulling that little foot free!We have found that the strap that matters most on the Mitchell boots is the middle one that goes right over the heel. What has worked best is making it just tight enough to slip the top of our pinky under it. Any looser than that and he can slip out.We then make the lowest strap, the one over his toes, tight enough that we can slip the tip of our pointer finger under it.Finally, we make the top strap, the one on his calf, tight enough that we can just slip the tip of our thumb under it.This has been the combination of tightness-levels that has worked best for our little man. You will probably need to play around with your little one’s boots to find the combo that works best for you. But remember…don’t just think about them being too loose…they could also be too tight!
- Get that heel all the way down!
It is pretty easy to get Little E’s right foot all the way down and back to fit snugly into his boot.For whatever reason, it is much more difficult to get his left foot in there!At first, we were satisfied with just seeing his heel through the holes, even if we could see that it wasn’t all the way down and back. (After five attempts to get his foot even visible through the holes, it seemed good enough.)However, when we did struggle with him long enough to get it all the way back and down, it would actually stay there!After a lot of playing around, we finally found a technique that let us get his heel all the way back and down almost every time. The key is a firm grasp and feeling the holes rather than twisting his foot to look in the holes.
- Non-slip socks
A pair of baby socks with grips on the bottom can often help with slipping out of the boots. Find a pair here.
- Criss-crossing the straps
Another method is to criss-cross the strap. This is an effective way to prevent slipping. In this method, the top strap goes to the middle buckle, and the middle strap goes to the top buckle.
Here’s what that looks like:
The only downside to this is that it may create wear more quickly in the boots.
By maneuvering, I mean how to hold your baby, nurse your baby, change your baby, etc.
By now, you’ve probably gotten used to how to do all these things with the cast (or casts).
Now, you’ve got to learn these things all over again.
The good news is, it’s not as difficult as you might fear!
Like I mentioned above, the bars that let the shoes click on and off are much easier than those that screw on. We will talk about both versions in what follows.
Dressing your baby:
The awesome thing is, most of the time you don’t even have to worry about this! Just snap the onsie on and you’re done.
If you do want to put pants on and you have a screw-on bar, you will have to remove the boots and then replace them after the pants are on. In this case I would suggest only wearing pants on very special occasions. Instead, if it is cold, simply use pajamas or rompers that snap all the way down the legs, like these ones.
If you have the click-on bar, pants are much more do-able as long as they have wide and stretchy openings at the bottom. (Cute and trendy skinny jeans will require you to take the boots off before putting the pants on. I admit, I have done this just because it was so darn cute ^_^). Just click the bar off, gently pull the pants over the boots, and click the bar back on!
Changing your baby:
It is super tempting to just grab your baby’s bar and pull their butt up in the air. While you can do a version of this, be very careful of your little one’s ankles.
Instead of just pulling on the bar, I like to put my arm across the back of Little E’s boots (like the picture below) and raise his legs up that way. This prevents me from pulling too much on his ankle joints.
If it isn’t a crazy messy diaper, I simply leave the boots and bar on and slip the diaper out between his legs.
If it is decently messy, I will click the bar off so I can really get into all his rolls. (With the bar on, it is hard to bend his legs the right way to access the crevices.)
If it is a crazy messy diaper, I will take both the bar and the boots off so as to prevent anything from getting on his (quite costly) boots.
Holding your baby:
Holding Little E with his BnB on wasn’t as much of a challenge as I thought it would be. I pretty much hold him in the same ways that I held him when he had his cast on.
The one thing that has changed, however, is that we need to be more aware of his joints. The bar is pretty heavy, so if we just leave it hanging for any length of time it could definitely cause some knee, hip, or ankle pain.
So when I am carrying Little E around, I make sure to support under his knees.
I also love to wear Little E, especially in his Ergobaby. In his Ergobaby, he can face outward or inward and still wear his bar. It was a bit difficult at first when he was smaller, as his bar was too small to reach across the gap. But now that he is getting bigger, it just reaches. I know that soon it will reach perfectly across, without bending his little legs in a weird position.
You can read about wearing a baby with boots and bar in an Ergobaby here. It’s important to have them in the correct position so as not to hurt their joints!
I absolutely love my Ergobaby! So much so that it is one of the first things I recommend to any mama. In fact, I have a 10% off code just for you to use on their website! CODE: jo8KbuYBBM
Nursing your baby:
Nursing Little E with his boots and bar has been a bit more tricky.
He and I have found a pretty good groove with cross-cradle hold. The trick here, in regards to his BnB, is to have a pillow that he can lean his feet against. Without this. his top foot would be hanging in midair, or his torso would be very twisted.
Another option that works well for us during night-time feedings, or when I am pretty far laid-back on the couch, is laying him down on top of me with his knees bent (see picture below.) The trick here, though, is to keep your little one’s head propped up a bit on your arm so their nose isn’t crushed into you.
Football style can also be good. In fact, this is one nursing hold you may not have been able to do very easily with your little one’s cast. Now that Little E has started working on sitting up, our football hold has evolved more into him sitting up with me supporting his head and neck. This works well for us on the couch because he fits well this way with his BnB.
During the night (or the day when I am really tired), the side-lying position also works well. Just lean his brace against your body. Sometimes I’ll even pull my top knee back and rest his top foot on my lower knee. This seems to be how Little E is the most comfortable.
With all these new adjustments, a big key is going to be grace and patience!
It is extremely hard not to get discouraged when it feels like your progress has gone backward (your little one may now have trouble sleeping longer, being happy during tummy time, with the groove you got into when nursing, etc.).
But keep it up, Momma!
Remember during those difficult times that this is helping your little baby to one day run and jump and play without pain or issue. There was more than a few times during that first week that this thought was the only thing that made me put his brace back on despite the tears and frustration.
And be encouraged! You are not alone. There are tons of support groups out there, like this one on Facebook. Get connected!
More than that, however, the Lord is present with us always and in every situation.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Going through your own clubfoot journey? Is your little one in boots and bar yet? Or are you getting ready for this transition? Leave a comment or question below!
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