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Sleep Training Baby Wearing Boots and Bar After Clubfoot Diagnosis

Can you sleep train your baby wearing boots and bar?


Sleep training a baby can be a challenging task, especially when they are diagnosed with clubfoot and have to wear boots and bars to sleep. If your baby is undergoing the Ponsetti treatment for clubfoot, they will likely be required to wear the boots and bar to bed each night for 4-5 years. The good news is your child can sleep through the night during that time.


Clubfoot treatment requires consistent wear of boots and bar to correct the foot deformity. However, this doesn't mean sleep training is impossible. With patience, consistency, and adherence to medical advice, you can help your baby sleep independently while wearing boots and bars.

As a mom to a clubfoot child, I look forward to exploring some effective strategies for sleep training, incorporating foot stretches into bedtime routines, changing socks regularly, and utilizing a bar cover.


Understanding Clubfoot Treatment


Before diving into sleep training techniques, it's essential to understand the basics of clubfoot treatment. Clubfoot is a congenital condition, sometimes positional, where a baby's foot is twisted inward. Treatment typically involves the Ponseti method, which includes gentle manipulation of the foot followed by the application of plaster casts, a tenotomy, or tendon release, and, eventually, the use of boots and bar to maintain correction. To read about our daughter’s journey from diagnosis to graduation of boots and bar at age four, checkout  this post: Clubfoot Journey: Our Daughter's Clubfoot Correction. Part 1.


Dr. Dobbs applying plaster cast for clubfoot treatment
Dr. Dobbs applying plaster cast for clubfoot treatment

How to Establish Independent Sleep through Sleep Training


1. It’s never a bad idea to discuss sleep training with your pediatrician. They know your family and child best and can give you the green light to move baby to their room or wean night feedings. Sleep training doesn’t necessarily mean night weaning, though. More information on that here. Your orthopedic surgeon will have given you a protocol for boots and bar wear, so as mentioned above. If you are sleep training, your child will likely be wearing the equipment for nights and possibly naps.


2.  Establish a bedtime routine: Consistency is key when it comes to sleep training. Create a calming bedtime routine that allows your child to transition from awake time to a period of sleep and separation. As a sleep consultant, I can’t stress the importance of a child’s bedtime routine. It can be so easy and straightforward that any caregiver can implement! Incorporate foot stretches as part of your baby’s bedtime routine as it’s a great time of day to dedicate the time to it. Stretching is incredibly important in your child’s clubfoot journey. Stretching will help maintain flexibility, prevent stiffness and even relapse.


3. Adjusting to boots and bar: Our personal experience was boots and bar directly place once the final cast was removed. The final cast was put on after the tendon release. We came home with a baby who was uncomfortable, grouchy and tired. It was a new normal for all of us. Listening to the stretching regimen and wear schedule was very overwhelming. I feel like our daughter transitioned okay into the brace and sleep was about as it was before. We felt that the brace was heavy and really pulled on her hips and knees, so there was a period where she slept with a small towel rolled up and placed under her knees.


4. Sleep environment to help your baby sleep through the night: Create a conducive sleep environment for your baby by ensuring the room is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Consider using a white noise machine or box fan to create preserve their sleep from outside noises. Boots and bar can be pretty noisy when bumping the side of the crib, so the white noise will help muffle this, as well. I also encourage your little one to wear a sleep sack. The sleep sack will keep the boots and bar contained so that your baby doesn’t play with them or undo the straps.


5. Encourage self-soothing: Teach your baby to self-soothe by allowing them to fall asleep independently. While it may be tempting to intervene at the first sign of fussiness, giving your baby the opportunity to self-soothe can help them develop healthy sleep habits.


6. You baby may sleep in an awkward position: This is okay. Our baby slept in very peculiar ways once she became mobile. She often slept sitting up and forehead on bar, her feet would float in the air during sleep onset, and the most popular was knees under belly and bum in the air.


Incorporating Foot Stretches into your Baby’s Bedtime Routine


Foot stretches are an essential component of clubfoot treatment and can be seamlessly incorporated into your baby's bedtime routine. Here's how to do it:


  • Gently remove your baby's boots and bars before bedtime. In the beginning, they can spend 15 minutes outside of the boots and bar at a time. This may mean you will move bath time to a different time of day for now.

  • Place your baby on their back and gently stretch their feet by holding their ankle and applying gentle pressure to the affected foot, moving it in the way your doctor has shown you. Your baby may feel uncomfortable, and that is okay. Continuing to do the stretches will allow your child’s foot to acclimate quicker.

  • Repeat the stretches on both feet, focusing on maintaining flexibility and range of motion.

  • Once the stretches are complete, put your baby's boots and bars back on and proceed with the rest of the bedtime routine. Once your child is sitting up, they will enjoy sitting in your lap facing out to watch someone else do the stretches.

Toddler wearing boots and bar during bedtime
Toddler wearing boots and bar during bedtime


Changing Socks Regularly


Regular sock changes are important to prevent skin irritation, blisters and discomfort caused by prolonged wear of boots and bar. It may take some time to find the ‘perfect’ sock and that’s okay. We preferred taller socks to cover the calf.


Here are some tips for changing socks:


·      Use soft, breathable socks that provide adequate cushioning and support.

·      Change your baby's socks at least once a day, preferably during the bedtime routine and in the morning. Baby’s feet will get sweaty!

·      Inspect your baby's feet regularly for any signs of redness, irritation, or pressure sores, and consult with your doctor if you notice any concerns.


Using a Bar Cover


Bar covers are protective sleeves designed to cover the metal bars of the orthopedic brace, preventing them from causing discomfort or injury to your baby or damage to their bed or another person (ouch!).

You find where we purchase ours here.


Here's how to use them effectively:


  • Choose a bar cover that is lightweight and easy to take off.

  • Choose a design that you like- you can have more than one!

  • Ensure the bar covers fit securely over the bars of the brace, with no loose or dangling parts that could pose a choking hazard.

  • Wash bar covers regularly to keep them clean and free from bacteria or allergens that could irritate your baby's skin.


Sleep training a baby wearing boots and bars after a clubfoot diagnosis requires patience, consistency, and adherence to medical advice. By consulting with your doctor, establishing a bedtime routine, incorporating foot stretches, changing socks regularly, and using bar covers, you can help your baby sleep independently while ensuring they receive the necessary treatment for clubfoot.

As a mom to a clubfoot cutie, I understand the stressful journey you are on to ensure your child’s feet get the best care and with the best possible outcome for full correction. As always, if you feel like your child would benefit from a second opinion, reach out so I can share our personal story (also see the article linked further above).


Lindsay Loring is a mom to twin girls and a certified pediatric sleep consult with Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting. She lives in the metro St. Louis, MO and helps families worldwide find predictable routines with sleep.

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