Welcoming a new baby is exciting, but if you have a disability, you may be concerned about setting up your home. There are things you’ll need to consider as you baby-proof to ensure your baby is safe and you can get to him quickly.
Prepping Your Home
In addition to standard baby-proofing, you’ll need to make sure you can get around. First, decide how you are carrying your baby. Will you use a baby holder, a sling or another device, like one that attaches to your wheelchair? When you find the solution you’re most comfortable with, purchase it. We recommend keeping any receipts in case what you bought doesn’t work as you had hoped.
It’s now time to test it with some weight inside, such as a bag of rice, to mimic what it will be like carrying your child. Take stock of where, what, and how you’ll navigate with your child in tow. This will include:
It might be a good idea to replace stairs with ramps, if appropriate for your disability. Be sure to line ramps with non-slip covers.
- Hallways, Doorways, and Tight Spots
Make sure that areas like these are well-lit and easy to navigate. You can also purchase expandable hinges to help with doorways.
Install skid-resistant flooring around your home to prevent slips.
Non-slip mats and grip bars in the bathroom may help you safely bathe and toilet train your child. You may also want to consider replacing door knobs with handles if you have wrist mobility issues. That goes for faucets too.
While you probably have not yet purchased items for your nursery, these steps will give you a preliminary idea of the challenges you’ll face. Keep in mind you need to budget for any specialty items designed for disabled parents, which can be costly.
Specialty Items To Make Life Safer
Disabled parents can purchase specially-designed items to help them care for their babies. While some of these are advertised as conveniences, getting to your baby quickly is actually a safety issue. Some suggested items include:
- A side-opening crib, to more easily access your child.
- Swiveling car seat for your vehicle.
- Height-adjustable cribs, bouncers, and “high” chairs.
- Other wheelchair-friendly devices, such as baby changing carriers.
- Devices for visually or hearing impaired parents to keep track of their child, such as a wearable audio monitor.
What NOT To Worry About
There are a lot of decisions to make, but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by concerns. Like any new parent, you have expectations and worries. The truth is that you will rise to any challenges that you have not yet encountered or considered, and your child will adapt to you as well.
According to the APA, a study of mothers with physical disabilities proved this to be true: “One mother with paraplegia would signal her month-old baby that she was ready to lift him by tugging on his clothes. Adapting to his mother's disability, the baby would curl up like a kitten and remain still during his mother's lifts.”
Parenting always brings challenges, but there are more resources and tools than ever before to help disabled parents. Take the steps that you need to, and enjoy the journey.