Any parent will tell you that having a baby is a life-changing experience. Suddenly, the everyday routine you were so comfortable with is completely thrown out the window, and your entire life revolves around your little one. Although much of parenthood is a learn-as-you-go experience, new parents can take several tips from those who have done it already. This is especially true for disabled parents who may be anticipating a few additional challenges in their childcare journey.
1. Think Far into the Future
Preparing for the future should be the first priority if every parent. Although research suggests that parents will never stop worrying about their children, thinking ahead will give you some peace of mind. As soon as possible, prepare a will and designate someone you trust to care for your child if you and your spouse die unexpectedly. A life insurance and burial policy are always a good idea to keep your family from financial hardship if something happens to you. This ensures that no one will have to cover your mortgage, medical bills, or other debts in your absence. Finally, try to save 3 to 6 months of living expenses in an emergency fund. You never know when an unexpected life event will threaten your income.
2. Make a Daily Self-Care Plan
Since childcare is so demanding, many parents forget to take care of themselves. The result is fatigue, stress, irritability, and other symptoms of parental burn-out. Avoid this by developing a daily self-care plan before the baby arrives. Your self-care plan should focus on exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and at least 10 minutes of relaxation time every day. Remember that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep during the night to properly rejuvenate the body and mind. Also, try to drink water throughout the day, since even mild dehydration contributes to fatigue. Parents can learn more essential energy-boosting strategies from Plexus Worldwide.
3. Find Accessible Baby Products
Make your daily childcare tasks easier with accessible baby products:
- Strollers with a one-hand fold.
- Strollers that attach to wheelchairs.
- Swiveling car seats for easier access to children.
- Baby slings for arms-free carrying.
- Nursing pillows for stable and comfortable feeding.
- Cribs and changing tables with adjustable heights.
These products can be difficult to find, so do some searching online instead of relying on your local baby stores alone. For example, Disabled Parenting has some useful resources that can help you track down adaptive baby products to buy.
4. Adapt Your Childcare Equipment
If you just can’t find the right equipment, why not make your own? Many disabled parents have successfully adapted baby products—or built them from scratch—to better suit their needs. People in wheelchairs may consider modifying a regular crib to open from the side. Not only does this make it easier to get your child in and out, but it also turns your crib into a comfortable place to play with your baby. This is useful if getting down on the floor is challenging. Check out this article by Push Living Store for inspiration on adapting your own crib.
5. Come Up With Creative Solutions to Anticipated Challenges
Some parenting tasks can be especially difficult for people with limited mobility. Many disabled parents, like this mom, have found inventive ways to get around everyday challenges. For example, you can turn a desk into a changing table so it is easily accessible from a wheelchair. Get a changing pad that has slightly elevated edges, which will keep your baby in place without limiting your reach. You can even use the desk as a bathing area. All you need is a large basin and a caddy or cart for your bathing supplies.
Remember, you’re one of 4 million parents in the U.S. with a disability. If you come across a challenge that you just can’t seem to overcome, chances are good that another parent has found an inventive solution for it. There are several online resources where you can get advice and learn about services that may be available to you. After all, every parent can use a little more support!
Written by: Ashley Taylor
Ashley has severe scoliosis. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to fellow parents raising their children while living with disabilities.