The Australian Network on Disability says that 1 in 5 Australians have a disability of some kind. Many of them are parents, and if you’ll soon be joining them in parenthood, congratulations! You already know you’ll face challenges in the months and years ahead, so it’s super-important that you prepare early, and that includes making modifications to your home. A survey by researchers at Harvard found that the three biggest challenges disabled parents face are bathing, nightcare, and carrying. If you want to learn how to make all three of these easier for you, read on!
Bathing Bathing might well be the aspect of childcare that you fear the most. Water and soap make for a slippery baby, so to prepare thoroughly, you should be really honest about whether you’re able to do this. Many parents with disabilities choose to have another caregiver take care of the bathing. If you can do this yourself, you might choose to bathe your child in the sink or buy a bathing station specificallydesigned for accessibility and safety. If you use the tub, you could have additional grab-bars installed to assist you.
Nightcare When choosing a cot, consider whether you’ll be able to lift your baby over the sides easily. If this will be hard, look into a cot with a side gate. You’ll pay a little more, but it will make access much easier, especially if you’re in a wheelchair. A side-gated cot also serves as an accessible changing and play area. You might also consider keeping the cot in your own room or even co-sleeping with your baby. This way, it will be easier to get up and tend to your child through the night. You’ll be doing this a lot, so make it as easy as possible.
Carrying Your home is likely already set up to aid your own mobility, but parenthood increases the level of mobility you will need. For example, you may need to hold your child at the same time as carrying out activities around the home. If this will be difficult for you, look into slings and other carriers that enable you to hold your baby while keeping your arms free. If you’re in a wheelchair or need to hold your baby steady while on your lap, you might try something like a LapBaby or simply use a sling or scarf around your waist while seated. Make sure you keep your floor clear of trip hazards at all times, such as rugs, mats, cords, and other objects.
Further Babyproofing You don’t know it, but there are hazards all over your house. Cover corners of furniture with foam corner guards, get a toilet lock (the water in the bowl is a drowning hazard), install sliding covers over electrical outlets, and move poisonous materials from under the sink to higher cupboards. Tipping furniture is also a big problem. According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, tipping furniture and TVs result in two child fatalities each year. You never know whether your child will be a climber, so secure all furniture that is liable to tip! This means chests and dressers, as well as heavy objects like televisions. You will need to buy anti-tip devices like brackets or wall straps for this. Even though your baby won’t be crawling for a while, it’s still better to get as much of your home preparation sorted as early as you can. This will not only give you the confidence of knowing that you’re ready, but it will also give you more time to do what you want to do—spend time with your newborn.
Article written by Ashley Taylor from Disabledparents.org
ASHLEY TAYLOR "My husband and I both have disabilities. We’ve always wanted children, and knew that because of our disabilities becoming parents and parenthood, in general, would require extra planning and prep. From the get-go we started saving for IVF treatments and making modifications to our home that would make us and our future children safer. Along the way, we’ve picked up a lot of great resources on planning and preparing for parenthood as parents with disabilities and we’ve learned some valuable lessons, too."