Teacher | Blogger | Mom
Data from a Looking Glass study estimates that between 4 and 9 million parents are currently living with disabilities in the United States. For these parents, the beginning of parenthood is a bit different. Research has shown that moms spend over 1,400 hours worrying about their babies in the first year alone and later on, we end up worrying about their education, diet and even about having a positive influence on our children. For parents with disabilities, they have to continuously navigate their own added challenges to these daily worries. If you and your partner live with a disability and are gearing up to become new parents, making use of a few key resources and handy tips can help you not only get through the first year, but enjoy your time as a new parent.
Spend Time Building Your Support Network
Multiple studies have shown that the mental health of parents of children with disabilities is particularly vulnerable, and it is no different for typically-abled parents. In the first year, new parents lose up to 350 hours of sleep alone along with increased exhaustion, recovery and higher levels of stress, so it is no surprise that new parents are more prone to mental health issues. Research by the Royal College of Nursing showed that 2 in 5 new parents deal with mental issues including anxiety and depression and that is without taking into account the proportion of those entering parenthood with a mental or physical condition. However, you can be proactive and begin building a strong support system for when the baby comes.
The general suggestion for all new parents is to rely on close friends and family members who can step in when needed — either with transport, babysitting breaks or physical help. While this is particularly useful for new parents with disabilities, you should also think about the resources available outside of your family circle. Volunteer organizations like Easter Seals, The Arc, and the Volunteers of America also offer volunteer support and in-home visits. This can provide some level of respite and training to help you with your specific challenges.
Map Out Any Financial Assistance Available For Disabled Parents
Local and online groups can be helpful to exchange useful parenting tips or guidance on the financial side of being a parent with disabilities, including veteran parents or stay-at-home parents. In addition to answering questions about the application process for disability grants, these forums also help with estimating veteran impairment classifications and compensation categories. Some great examples are the Disabled Parenting Project forum and AdoptUS Kids’ Resources For People With Disabilities.
Make Your Parenting Routine Your Own- With The Help Of Accessibility Aids
Certain limitations of your disability can make performing certain tasks for your newborn difficult. Thankfully, the market is filled with useful gadgets that can help those late nights and 2-hour feedings easier. Those with physical limitations can opt for a co-sleeper cot, which attaches to the side of the bed. When it comes to formula preparation or bottle cleaning, machines like Tommee Tippee’s Perfect Prep Machine can make light work of making formulas every 2 hours to keep your newborn fed. If you choose to breastfeed, a pregnancy or breastfeeding pillow can help you cradle and feed your baby comfortably.
Finally, consider getting yourself a baby sling/carrier. They are highly adaptable which means you can choose a baby-wearing position that does not aggravate any injuries you may have. You may also want to stock up on batch cooked meals and some tools to help meal planning easier such as a slow cooker or a defroster.
Parenthood can be tough for any parent, particularly during the first year. Don’t be afraid to make the journey your own, no matter what challenges you are facing. It may be a different route, but it is no less beautiful.
About Jane Sandwood
Jane has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years. She has written for both digital and print across a wide variety of fields. Her main interest is exploring how people can improve their health and well being in their everyday life. And when she isn’t writing, Jane can often be found with her nose in a good book, at the gym or just spending quality time with her family.