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My baby has a club foot; should she see a specialist?
Q: I have a 17-month-old baby who has a club foot. She is walking now but it did take her a while to learn. I would like to know if I should take her to a specialist, or will she outgrow this?
A: Jennifer, thanks for your question about your baby's club foot. Club foot is when a baby is born with a foot pointed downward and inward. One or both feet may be affected. It can be hereditary or result from a problem in the baby's development during pregnancy.

For a baby born with a club foot, it's very important that you have your pediatrician check her at the frequent well-child visits starting at birth. The pediatrician should do complete physical and developmental exams, since club foot can sometimes be associated with other conditions.

Although very mild cases of club foot may get better on their own over time, more severe club foot requires treatment—the earlier the better, when the baby's feet are most flexible. Currently, doctors recommend treatment starting in the newborn period with an orthopedic specialist stretching then casting the baby's foot weekly for two months, followed by a special foot brace for up to three years to maintain the proper foot position. Sometimes surgery is needed.

Be sure to ask your pediatrician about a referral to an orthopedic specialist. The orthopedist can assess your daughter's club foot by carefully examining her feet, legs and hips;observing how she stands and walks, and doing X-rays if necessary. Based on the assessment, the orthopedist can tell you whether foot exercises, physical therapy, special shoes, splints, casts or surgery might be helpful.

With proper treatment, children born with club foot should be able to develop nearly normal feet and walk, run and play sports like other children.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician