|(Title Image of me bottle feeding with a stream of brand logos featured in this post)|
DISCLAIMER: The comprised list below of baby products/gadgets are based on my top picks of what helped me, with my specific limitations throughout parenting my daughters in infancy. Everybody's limitations are different, so keep in mind when you're scrolling through that some may not be suitable. This post is simply some suggestions for products that may or may not make life easier for disabled parents. It is upto you to determine their suitability to your specific needs and circumstances. Thank you for reading ☺️
1. Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine
|(IMAGE: Sleek white machine that resembles coffee maker)|
This became the go-to-gadget for formula feeding mamas everywhere from 2015. It's basically like a coffee maker but for baby formula. Simple, quick and effective. Due to my muscle weakness, lifting a kettle to fill bottles every 2-4hrs (especially when sleep deprived) was an accident waiting to happen. Now health experts say you must make formula on demand, making a day's worth in advance to save you time and energy according to the WHO run the risk of making baby ill. So despite everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY telling me to make a day's worth of bottles and pop them in the fridge, I just didn't think it was worth the risk to my girls just because it'd be easier for me.That's just my opinion. To each their own. This gadget enabled me to safety prep bottles without trying to handle boiling water, whilst trying to measure the amount. You simply choose how many oz and it'll put that amount of boiling water in the bottle. Add some scoops of formula, press the button to top up with cold water to cool it to a drinkable temperature within seconds. It's the best thing since sliced bread for disabled parents, I'm telling you!
2. Boppy™ pillows/"breast" feeding support pillows including the holy grail of feeding pillows the ClevaMama 10-in-1!
|(IMAGE: Multifunctional crescent shaped pillow with detachable straps & padding in fun pokadot pattern)|
The ClevaMama 10-in-1 takes the traditional Boppy™ feeding pillow to a whole new level! Take it from a disabled Mum who found her baby need constantly repositioned in the Boppy and therefore me needing to get another person to do that for me on occasion (especially as my girls got bigger!) So finding a pillow with a padded harness meant I could buckle baby in on the couch next to me, without needing to scoot them up all the time as they sunk down. It can also be used for tummy time, in the high chair and a variety of other ways that could really save you precious pennies on other baby gear. Win win!
3. Next2Me Crib (co-sleeper cot)
|(IMAGE: Attachable bedside cot. One side of cot is down for easy access to baby)|
These co-sleeper type cots were originally intended for post c-section Mums who needed to keep baby close and not be bending and lifting. So of course this is going to be handy for someone who struggles to bend and lift on a daily basis 👍 It locks securely to the parents bed frame so no gap can be formed, it's on wheels so you can push it out the way to transfer into your wheelchair, the cot side can stay down parent-facing or be hooked back up easily and you can even see through the breathable mesh cot sides that are a SIDS safety feature.
4. Exploring different bottle sterilisers that'd best fit my limitations
|(IMAGE: Microwavable, electric and cold water sterilisers)|
I found it tricky to find the right bottle steriliser that'd be compatible for me to independently sterilise bottles with my muscle weakness affecting my upper body too. With my first I used an electric steriliser and found that easier as I couldn't get close enough to my microwave in my powerchair, with my 2nd we were in a new house with a different kitchen layout so I found the microwavable one good. I will say, I've never been able to use those stupid plastic tongs that comes with them though! I'd just simply wash my hands in anti-bacterial soap before handing the bottles. I think it's important you think about your arm strength, dexterity and kitchen access when considering what steriliser to buy and definitely have a few trial runs before baby's born with the product incase you need to get your money back and switch types. There's nothing worse than realising what you thought you'd be able to do, you severely struggle or can't when you need to!
5. Ikea Changing Units or custom built changing tables
|(IMAGE: Tall unit resembling a bookcase in which mid shelf is extended out to place a changing mat etc)|
One of my biggest concerns pregnant with my 1st was doing a lot of research into baby changing stations/units and realising all your typical ones were not suitable for a parent in a wheelchair. They all had handy storage underneath. I ever tried asking places like Mothercare and Babies R Us if they could tell me if any of their available units had at least removable storage shelves below, in an attempt to adapt it. Staff couldn't guarantee they were easily removable and I didn't have money to burn. In the end my partner ended up getting a standard computer table from a charity shop and ankored a change mat ontop and I'd put a storage bin for bits and bobs next to it. It worked! But I would of loved to have been able to pick one with a pretty pattern with all the bells and whistles like other Mums-to-be. When my 2nd daughter was 1 I came across the above Ikea Changing Unit in the HENSVIK range. The clearance underneath seemed ideal, baby is facing vertical to you and the changing top can be removed once it's no longer needed. Leaving you able to use it as a nice kitchen cabinet or bookshelf! I was in awe and if my youngest wasn't nearly out of nappies I'd be swooping up one of these definitely...
6. AngelCare Movement Sensor baby monitor
|(IMAGE: Sensor pad placed under baby's mattress to detect breathing inconsistancies)|
Unlike traditional audio only baby monitors, the AngelCare Movement Sensor Monitor has a sensor pad you put under baby's mattress. This was designed for hyper vigilant parents who feared Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS aka Cot Death ) but is also used by parents of premature babies or infants with a variety of disabilities that may mean they stop breathing. As a disabled parent my worst fear was not being able to check on baby as easily once in another room or baby struggling to breathe/choking and I became aware too late to get to them fast enough, resulting in every parents worst nightmare. My worst fear became a reality when Ava was just 3 months old, I'll write a separate blog about this but to cut a long story short... She was premature and developed life threatening Bronchiolitis. The GP kept fobbing me off saying it was just a cold, I was an over-protective parent blah blah blah. I took her 3 times to be checked over due to her symptoms, the 4th morning after her sickness began...I went to try and wake her as she was usually up by 6am and she was grey and floppy. Dr's told me if I hadn't gotten that instinct to go check on her, Ava might not of been here today. After a month in hospital, nurses told me about the AngelCare monitor as I confided I was terrified of her stopping breathing again. I didn't know how I'd allow myself to sleep again, if it wasn't for this new monitor... I don't think I'd be sane today to be honest. Once you've experienced something like that, it's impossible to learn to fully put your guard down. If I had known about this type of baby monitor prior, it could of alerted me a lot sooner.
7. Dummy clips
|(IMAGE: Wooden beads on a short strand with clip on end)|
My youngest Ava is a big fan of the dreaded Dummy. Yep, I circumed to letting her have one after that stay in hospital I mentioned above. It's actually proven to help premature babies regulate their breathing too so they aren't as bad as we're trained to believe! With the dummy comes great responsibility, because every dummy using baby mama knows the horror that will erupt if you lose the bloody thing when you most need it. Especially when out and about! First off, if you're going to get a dummy clip make sure it's a certified brand that has a short lead that cannot wrap itself around baby's neck, no plastic beads or parts that could potentially lodge in baby's throat. The most recommended dummy clips are the strap ones by MAM or the wooden teether style. Having baby's dummy on a clip will save you from breaking your back trying to use your grabber or being otherwise creative to get it off the floor as your baby is screaming for its return. Only for them to repeat this several times a day. It just makes sense!
8. Milton Mini Portable Soother Steriliser
|(IMAGE: Circular object with carry handle you place dummy in)|
Again with the dummies! 😂 With frequent dropping from either baby or disability related butter-fingers...you've still got to keep these bad boys sterile for at least the first 6 months. Here enters the travel DUMMY sterilisers! I like the Milton Mini Portable Soother Steriliser that use cold water and sterilising tablets ALOT better than say MAM's 2 dummy sterilising microwavable pots. The Milton ones you can hang on your pram/wheelchair/bag and it sterilises on the go with no need for a warming appliance.
9. Baby slings/carriers
|(IMAGE: Examples of different baby slings/carriers with various brands, styles vs age of infant)|
If you join these disabled parenting Facebook groups (which I really recommend btw!) you'll see a common theme in wheelchair using parents to keep their hands free is to use some form of baby sling/carrier. They come in a wide range of styles to fit all body types, each putting baby's weight on a different part of your body (which is handy if say your back is vulnerable e.g you'd pick one where the weight is particularly evened out) or if you've got painful shoulders/no meat on them like me due to Muscular Dystrophy I know I couldn't go for a sling with a band/straps weighing down my shoulders, I'd need one where the fabric can be spread out over my entire shoulder such as the Moby Wrap . Baby slings/carriers aren't cheap though so I'd advise contacting your local Sling Library (<~ click to find yours via the Sling Library Network website) and trying a bunch before you commit to buy. They're not just great for wheelchair users, many parents with Visual Impairments use them to keep one hand free for their cane/guide dog. Plus it's all the rage to baby wear in 2017!
10. Choosing a travel system over a standard pram
|(IMAGE: A "travel system" includes pram chassis with interchangeable carrycot, car seat and buggy seat)|
Travel systems are all the rage at the moment (cost an arm and a leg too mind you!) You really do get your money worth though, in the sense that you've got several travel options in one for a discounted price. Having multiple ways of getting around with baby is even more important when you struggle getting from A to B yourself with mobility problems. If you aren't in a position to have a wheelchair van or Motability car then you need something you can get on public transport with, can easily fold but if you had to get in a taxi or a relative was willing to give you and baby a lift, you wouldn't need to worry with the attachable infant carrier that comes as standard in most modern travel system bundles. Did you know that you can get a hoist in your Motability vehicle? That's multifunctional in that it doesn't have to be just for hoisting a collapsible wheelchair in the vehicle but you can use it for a pram too!
11. Lap Baby™!
|(IMAGE: Mother seated at desk with baby strapped around her waist with broad Velcro strap, her hands free)|
This relatively new product was created as a solution to holding baby while trying to eat or work at a table. With the parent being seated in mind throughout, this makes this the perfect security strap for baby's to remain safe on a wheelchair users lap without the need to be held, leaving the wheelchair user free to propel or drive their powerchair. The strap is thick, heavy duty velcro around parent and baby's waist, including a crotch strap to prevent baby slipping. It also has a convenient incorporated bib, teether clip and handy carry bag. You can check out wheelchair user and Mum of 3 - Lizzy demonstrating the LapBaby™ HERE
That brings me to the end of my top baby "Products/Gadgets That Helped Me Adapt" when parenting with a disability. I hope some of these ideas are helpful to individuals who are either considering starting a family but have a disability, or those who are already parents and are looking to troubleshoot some parenting dilemmas.
If you have found a product that's not listed above that you think others could benefit from please don't hesitate to tell us all about it in the comment box below! ⬇️⬇️