Making the Right Changes to Get Your Home and Your Life Ready
If you have a disability, you’re probably used to making adaptations to live independently, but when you’re about to become a parent, adaptations take on a whole new meaning. Babies depend on you entirely, and meeting their needs is a little different from caring for yourself. With a little preparation and the right resources, though, you can absolutely learn how to do these things for your child safely and independently.
Your primary concerns are safety and caring for your child, especially in those early infant and toddler stages. Parenthood is a lot like on-the-job training, and you will figure out what works best for your family, but it can also be helpful to get tips from other parents who have already done it.
Start making your home safe for little ones with basic childproofing. Some steps to take include using outlet covers, adding gates to prevent falls down stairs, and locking cabinets so children can’t reach cleaning supplies or medicines. Besides these common safety tips, be extra cautious about less obvious hazards. Today’s Parent highlights some of the worst hazards to kids that we might be less likely to think of, such as electrical cords and pet food and water bowls (which can be a choking and drowning hazard). These childproofing tips are universal, but preventing dangerous situations is even more important if you have limited mobility, vision, or hearing.
Specific Safety Concerns
In addition to basic childproofing, you may want to make some simple home modifications to increase accessibility and safety for getting around with a small child. Replacing steps with a ramp can make it easier and safer to get in and out while holding a baby or keeping up with a toddler. If you use a wheelchair, making doorways wider by installing expandable hinges helps you get from room to room so that you can always be where you’re needed. Preventing falls is another key safety concern. It’s best to avoid carpet and rugs and instead install skid-resistant flooring to prevent slips.
Make the Most of Available Tools
Many parents with disabilities find that all you need is a few basic pieces of equipment along with the ability to adapt how you do some tasks. The list of baby gear you “need” can seem exhaustive, but all you really need is a safe solution for sleep, transportation, feeding, and play. With adaptive cribs and strollers, there are plenty of options to find baby gear that works for you.
When it comes to day-to-day tasks, you may find that instead of a limitation, being in a wheelchair can be a tool you use. One mom on The Mighty explains how she uses the tilt function on her wheelchair to help her child reach something on a counter. She has found ways to make using her wheelchair helpful and also fun for her children. Another mom explains to Able Thrive how her daughter has learned skills and reached physical milestones with the aid of her wheelchair. She learned to walk by pushing the wheelchair and how to crawl onto her mother’s lap.
You can also learn from other parents how certain strategies make parenting easier when you have a disability. Some moms find that breastfeeding, if possible, simplifies feeding by eliminating the need for preparing bottles. Another great idea is to use a practice doll to get a feel for what kind of adaptations you might make for daily tasks. And while adaptive strollers give you amazing flexibility, choosing to “wear” your baby with a sling or wrap is another great option that facilitates bonding and makes holding your baby easier.
A complete list of ideas for how to prepare your home and your life for parenthood would be as exhaustive as those baby gear lists! The most important thing is to connect with other parents and use the resources available to prepare the best you can. And being prepared and informed will make you more confident and ready for this exciting change.