I love featuring other writers here and this blog post comes from Anne at disabledparents.org. Being a parent with a disability, she has lots of great resources on getting ready for parenthood.
Every expectant parent must make sure their child will come into a home that’s safe and happy, a nurturing space where feeding, bathing, diapering, and nursing can be done in comfort and with convenience. For disabled parents, being fully prepared for parenthood is absolutely essential because there’s more to prepare for than with parents who don’t have disabilities. Sometimes significant home modifications are needed. Sometimes disabled parents have to use innovation and get a little creative to be effective parents. Fortunately, by following a few guidelines, you can be as well prepared as any parent can hope to be.
Perhaps your biggest challenge will be to make sure you have adequate accessibility when and where you need it. That starts with your home’s exterior. If you or your spouse uses a wheelchair or other mobility assistance device, getting in and out of your home with ease may require the installation of an access ramp. For the sake of maximum accessibility, it’s advisable to keep your bedroom and the nursery on the first floor, but if you need to move between floors, it may be necessary to install a chair lift. The average cost to have a lift installed ranges from $3,000 to $5,000.
Safety precautions are also important, and providing a safe environment may require a number of safety enhancements. Grab rails need to be installed in the bathroom along the toilet and in the bathtub or shower. No-slip safety pads should be placed in the bathtub and in front of the sink in case you need to use it to pull yourself upright. If you or your partner are vision impaired, apply textured tape or tape with Braille to avoid making mistakes with your child’s food preparation. Flooring should be easy to move across, with carpeting that’s not too thick, and any floor rugs must be secured to the floor to prevent slippage. Remember, if you experience difficulty paying for any upgrades or enhancements, there are sources of federal, state and community funding available to you.
As disabled parents, you’ll probably need to find, or have made, some specialized equipment that improves your accessibility. Many parents jury rig their wheelchairs so they can attach a baby stroller, often with velcro straps. Frequent diaper changes make easy crib access one of the most important equipment needs. A side-access crib allows you to reach directly in and change a diaper quickly without having to reach up and over into the crib. Disabled mothers also need to nurse their child with minimal effort. A breastfeeding sling allows you to cradle a baby in a padded shoulder strap and use both arms while nursing, a highly valued feature among quadriplegics.
Bathing can be an especially tricky maneuver for disabled parents, especially if you’re trying to use the kitchen sink to bathe a newborn, which many parents do. Instead, try using a Fisher Price toy tub placed on a waist-high table with a hose extension from your sink to make this important task easier. Interacting with your child is simplified with the boppy baby chair, lightweight carrier that can be placed right in your lap. There’s also a two-sided nursing pillow that allows you to position your child comfortably at breast level as he lives on a soft, yet stable surface.
Getting a child in and out of a vehicle can also be very challenging for disabled parents, which is what makes the swivel base baby car seat so handy. The seat can be swiveled from the forward to side-facing position, minimizing the possibility of a drop as you manipulate the straps and buckles.
Learning to care for a baby is always a stressful experience. You have to discover what works and what doesn’t, often through trial and error. Using the right equipment can do a lot to take the stress out of it for you. That’s why it’s so important to get an early start finding equipment and making modifications for parenthood.
Image courtesy of Pexels.com.