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Research

After Pregnancy

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As mentioned on the labor and delivery page, women with mobility impairments should consider lining up extra support for the first few weeks or months after the baby comes home. Being a new mom is tiring and you should focus on letting your body return to normal and bonding with your baby while allowing others to help with other tasks.

Women with chronic conditions that tend to relapse after childbirth, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, may need to plan for additional assistance with newborn care. Women with physical disabilities generally are able to breastfeed as long as they consult with their physicians about the safety of medications that may reach the baby. The let-down reflex necessary for breastfeeding usually functions even in women with paralysis.

Few formal studies have been done on parenting concerns among women with disabilities, but parental networks and sharing of occupational therapy-based information have been increasing to share experiences and provide practical support.

Studies indicate that partners of women with disabilities tend to take on more equal responsibilities in child care than do partners of able-bodied women, yet they do not perceive that they have more child care responsibilities than fathers or other partners of able-bodied women.

Mothers with spinal cord injuries reported in a study that there were no differences in family members' relationships or roles, and their children were as able to participate in activities as other children when compared to other families. The children did not perceive their mothers as any different from other mothers because of their spinal cord injury. Books and newsletters studying and documenting the experiences of parents with disabilities with pregnancy and parenting have been published, often by parents and rehabilitation specialists who are themselves parents with disabilities.

For more information, visit Through the Looking Glass, a center for research, training and services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability or medical issue.

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Adapted Parenting

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Just like other aspects of life with a disability, new moms may need to get creative when it comes to day-to-day life with a baby. Items such as cribs and strollers are not always easy to use with mobility aids. Here is a list of ideas for new moms and moms-to-be.

  • Baby Wraps: are great for holding your baby when you have limited upper body strength! Some moms use wheelchair straps around the baby to prevent themselves from being pulled over by baby.
  • Velcro: one of our community advisors used industrial strength Velcro to hold her baby on her lap!
  • Changing Tables: standard tables may be too high for wheelchair users. Try a baby bathtub on top of a regular table that is a good height for you.
  • Lap Baby Harnesses: these are typically used by parents to hold their child on an airplane but can easily be used day-to-day by moms with a mobility impairment.
  • Travel Cribs: may be easier for women with mobility impairments instead of a regular crib.
  • Co-Sleepers: allow the baby to sleep safely in bed with you and can be helpful for mothers who cannot easily get in and out of bed at night.
  • Swings: can be drilled into a two-by-four that is placed on casters. This makes the swing level to mom and easy to move from room-to-room.