There is no question that parenting is both tough and rewarding. One can feel overwhelmed by the endless amount of gadgets, furniture, clothing and other stuff that you have to consider buying once the new little one makes their grand entrance into the world. The internet, magazines and TV are bursting with colorful ads about the latest this or that which will make you and your little one’s life easier but lets face it, ableism is strongly at play when it comes to this industry and many people may feel at a loss as to how to adapt all these items to meet their own needs.
So what’s a parent (or sibling or babysitter or anyone else involved in childcare) to do when you can’t use both of your arms in the same way, can’t stand up to reach the changing table at its full height, use a wheelchair or crutches or a walker for mobility, have hearing or visual impairments? It may feel like the answers aren’t out there and it’s true that you have to look a little further than most but the good news is that smart and innovative people are out there working hard to solve this problem and I’m here to share some of the tools and products available to you!
**IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: this information is meant to alert you to the equipment that exists to help you but is not intended as a training module to use it safely. Please contact the manufacturer of each device or a qualified therapist/medical professional to help you select devices most appropriate to you and to teach you how to use it safely.
**This post may contain affiliate links from Amazon Associates or other affiliate programs through which I may earn a portion of qualifying purchases
Let’s face it, pushing a stroller is basically a two-handed job. So what’s a person to do when walking along behind a stroller and pushing it with both arms just isn’t gonna happen?
The Stroll-Smart Hands-Free Adaptor pictured below attaches to your waist allowing you to push the stroller using your torso instead of your hands. This could be a great solution for someone who needs to use an assistive device like this woman below or if you aren’t able to steer the stroller well with one or both hands and want a little extra support.
For parents who are wheelchair users designers have come up with several innovative attachments that combine the stroller and the wheelchair into one unit so that parent’s can transport their child safely while seated in their wheelchair. Spinalcord.com just released a great article in December 2020 highlighting several different products that are available on the market right now.
Carriers and Nursing Products
The Tushbaby Certified Hip Seat Baby Carrier is a helpful device that supports a baby’s bottom while you carry them on your hip. This is a great option if you lack the strength, muscle endurance or confidence in your arm for holding your baby this way. Let’s face it, babies are heavy and if you have to use your dominant arm to hold them and your nondominant arm isn’t as useful to perform secondary tasks this may give you an option for supporting them with the other arm so you can continue to have the preferred hand free to take care of other things.Breastfeeding pillows typically secure around a woman’s waist so that she can nurse with less reliance on her hands but this could easily be used by other parents and caregivers while they are bottle feeding or just to support the baby while they sleep. This product for example, the My Brest Friend Original Nursing Posture Pillow gets points both for a clever name and also for its design! Ring slings are a great option for hands-free carrying and also for breastfeeding. Whether sitting or standing these devices can support your baby comfortably and are great for wheelchair users, parents with any kind of wrist, hand or arm pain and anyone with weakness in their arms. The Hip Baby Wrap Ring Sling Baby Carrier for Infants and Toddlers is a great example. It is hand-woven from 100% cotton and has many great reviews on Amazon.
Wheelchair Accessible/Adjustable Height Cribs
Whether you have trouble bending down and lowering your child into a crib or can’t get close enough in your chair to reach them safely at all, the adjustable height/wheelchair accessible crib option is for you. The PediaLift is a great example of a crib that raises and lowers using a remote so that a wheelchair can slide underneath the crib or so that a parent or caregiver can transfer their baby safely and comfortable. With side access doors this crib eliminates the need to reach over the top of the railing. Gertie Cribs are another example of a height adjustable crib with side access doors that allow parents easier access to the crib mattress at the height that is most comfortable for them.
Car SeatsTransferring a baby or toddler into the carseat can be nearly impossible for some people if they can’t reach the front of the seat well. Some brands have tried to solve this problem by designing car seats with a swivel base. The CYBEX Sirona S Rotating Convertible Car Seat with SensorSafe 2.1 is just one example. Now I haven’t ever used this device so I am only making you aware of its existence but can’t vouch for it’s safety or effectiveness. Because these devices are so important for preventing serious injury while riding in the car it is important that you do your own research and consult your pediatrician to ensure this device is safe for your baby before purchasing.
Bathing. We all have to do it and for babies and infants they typically require a sink or infant bath to do so safely. The problem is, these methods are hardly accessible for anyone using a wheelchair or who has a hard time standing for a long period of time. I did a pretty extensive internet search assuming there must be some kind of accessible baby bath out there but I’m saddened to say I hit a dead end. How has no one invented this yet?? One genius and handy dad did share his DIY wheelchair accessible bathing station which just goes to show that there is still a lot of room to grow when it comes to adaptive parenting equipment.
Resources for Hearing and Visually Impaired Parents
Visually and hearing-impaired parents have been successfully raising children all over the world. Though they may need different strategies than others, where there is a will, there is a way. The National Federation for the Blind has a special section for Blind Parents filled with great resources including the Blind Parents Connection Podcast, helpful videos, a Blind Parents Mentoring Program and many more helpful tools.
Also, definitely check out The Deaf Mama blog written by a mom with hearing loss who, when faced with buying baby items that worked best for her, realized other moms and dads out there could benefit from her experience!
Parenting with an Intellectual Disability or Learning Disability
Parenting with an intellectual or learning disability is absolutely possible under the right circumstances and with the right supports and help in place. As every parent’s needs will be a little different it is important to have a good network of friends, family and professionals around you to help you identify where extra help and training may be needed and what services are available in your community to help you. The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and serving them and their families. They are a fantastic resource on this topic and a great place to start is their guide for Parents with Intellectual Disabilities.