The arrival of a newborn brings its share of joys and challenges. Parents with disabilities not only have to make the house safe for the baby but must look at their needs as well. Here’s how to do it
By Ashley Taylor
The brand-new addition to your world, in the form of your little bundle of joy is exhilarating, as much as it is daunting, for everyone. And, if you have a disability, you might be worried about how to cope with the daily tasks that are part of caring for newborns and infants. Read on for some tips that will make you and your baby safe at home.
A physical therapist can help you review your home for dangers and recommended modifications. You will want hallways and passages between rooms to be free of clutter, and that includes small pieces of furniture and decor items.
It is important to envision your baby crawling through the house. Make sure that no furniture on the floor can easily be toppled. Nightstands and bookshelves are often too precarious, but these items can be bolted to the floor or to a wall.
If you tire quickly, make sure there are places you can sit down in every room. Keep in mind that carrying a baby will bring on fatigue even faster.
Though it is a high-end modification, consider replacing stairs with ramps, especially outside the home. You can build a ramp over your stairs if the stairs are not too steep and if you have someone handy to help you with the project.
Replacing traditional door hinges with expandable hinges for doorways creates an extra two inches of available space in the doorframe. That’s usually enough to allow wheelchair access or walker access into a room without having to tear down a wall. Installing skid-resistant floors, like heavy-duty textured vinyl, will make you more confident about navigating the house with a baby in your arms.
Investing in the right baby products will help you avoid injury. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, you will need your baby’s feeding chair and tray to be the right height. Sometimes a DIY high chair with tray will be the best solution. Test drive the product as it is being assembled to make sure it will suit your needs.
Some disabled parents recommend a cot with rails on three sides. This can be placed next to your bed, and the bed becomes the fourth side of the cot. This engineering assures that you can always hear and see your baby. And, if she rolls, she will roll onto your bed.
Similarly, you will need to change and bathe your baby without straining your back, neck, or arms, so you will need a right-height changing table. If you are in a wheelchair, this table should fit around your chair to allow you to reach the baby without straining. The same table can be used for giving your baby a sponge bath.
A chest sling may be a good way to travel with your son or daughter. Before your baby comes home from the hospital, practice carrying about five pounds of weight in the sling to see if your back and legs can handle the load.
Baby clothing needs to be free of buttons. Velcro fasteners and zippers will make it much easier to change your baby. Paper diapers with tape fasteners will also be much easier than cloth diapers that have to be pinned.
There are many internet resources where you can share problems, find answers, and report your own triumphs, thereby helping other parents. Disabledparents.net is a useful site where parents help each other by sharing videos, sharing ideas, and helping solve issues.
Disabledparenting.com is a wonderful source of inspirational stories and meditations, as well as a site that offers a great deal of concrete advice for new parents.
Through the Looking Glass’ spreadsheet on baby products that accommodates disabled parents is invaluable. This spreadsheet not only matches the disability to the product, but also tells you who it won’t work for.
In conclusion, raising a baby is never easy. But disabled parents are known to be imaginative and clever when it comes to inventing new gear that makes their lives easier. Connect with other disabled parents, and you will find the solutions to every problem you face.
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