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Foresight and Planning: Tips for Disabled Parents
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Disabled parents prove every day that a physical shortcoming is no obstacle to being a good mom or dad. It may seem as though being in a wheelchair would make effective and responsive parenting very difficult. However, a carefully prepared and well-laid-out home can help you overcome most physical impediments. Extra planning and preparation can take the stress out of feeding, bathing, and diaper-changing for disabled parents— just ask one of the 4.1 million disabled parents in the United States (or 442,500 families in Australia with a disabled parent) who raise healthy and happy children.
There’s no general blueprint when it comes to prepping a home for parenthood. Every disabled parent has their own approach, and many use their inventiveness and creativity to help simplify things. The trick is to make it work for you based on your physical needs and preferences. However, there are a number of basic precautions that can make any home safer and more efficient for disabled parents and their children.
You may have already made physical adaptations, such as adding a wheelchair access ramp or a stair lift, before you knew you were becoming a parent. There are other adaptations that are aimed at helping you care for your child in the safest way possible and avoid mishaps that could happen to anyone. For example, your bathroom should include non-slip mats or rugs and grab rails to help you move around safely while bathing and changing your child.
Clutter can be a problem in anyone’s home; it’s something everyone battles against. But it can be dangerous when you’re moving around the house with a baby, so make certain to clear out unnecessary objects and excess furniture so that pathways and hallways are clear of all obstacles. If you’re visually challenged, braille tape is an important safety measure when it comes to meal preparation.
Standard baby equipment may not always fit the bill for disabled parents. You may have to look a little harder for bathing and nursing equipment and special-access cribs. Your healthcare provider may be able to help you find the equipment you need. Sometimes, disabled individuals need to use a little ingenuity.
Parents who are in wheelchairs can use a velcro strap to attach a baby stroller to their wheelchair. A chest-harness baby carrier can help you carry your baby while retaining free use of both arms. Finding an accessible crib is sometimes difficult for disabled people, but they can be customized so you can reach directly in through the side, rather than struggling to reach up over the top.
Many people prefer to bathe their newborns in the sink using a Fisher Price baby tub. For wheelchair-bound parents, it’s much easier to use a hose extension to fill a baby tub on a small, waist-high table. Breastfeeding slings make feeding time easier for disabled mothers, distributing your baby’s weight evenly and attaching comfortably via a padded strap.
Remember, it’s important to take good care of yourself. Caring for a newborn is physically demanding, and you need to get adequate rest so that you can provide the care your child needs. Make a little time for yourself each day to recharge your mental and emotional batteries. If necessary, reach out to a friend or family member for help if you’re having trouble getting a breather.
Disabled individuals who want to be parents often turn to in vitro fertilization. According to Qunomedical “The success and availability of in vitro fertilization has given hope to many infertile couples who have not been able to conceive. Since 1978, 5.4 million babies have been born worldwide with the help of IVF.” Though expensive, many people are able to save money for treatments, while others turn to online funding venues like BabyOrBust.com. In the United States, the average cost of a full IVF treatment cycle is $15,000 (and prices are similar in Australia).
Foresight, planning, and physical preparation can help disabled people provide their children with safe and nurturing care. Specialized equipment is available and makes some of the more difficult aspects of care considerably easier, alleviating the stress that goes with caring for a newborn. Consult your pediatrician if you need help finding the equipment you need.
Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.
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