• Scarlett Murray

Tips for Parenting with Limited Use of One Hand





When I was pregnant with my daughter, I spent a lot of time agonising over how I would physically care for her. Babies are needy, wriggly, fiddly things. Even if they didn’t move (which, they do), they’re still a lot more weight than I’m used to carrying around. Generally, I’m used to my right arm (which is not affected by my CP) doing all the heavy lifting. My left arm – my CP arm – can be a bit of a princess. And that’s okay. Until you’re dealing with a baby, and you can’t swing a baby under your right arm.

So, during pregnancy, I did a deep-dive into the Internet trying to find hacks for disabled parents. Unsurprisingly, but really, disappointingly, most of what I found online was for the parents of disabled kids. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. The parents of disabled kids should get the chance to chat and help each other out.

But I kept butting into walls. I began to feel like my existence, as a pregnant disabled woman, was almost inconceivable. And yet, there I was, living and breathing, disabled and pregnant.

Disabled people are the most skilled adapters. Often, the world fails to be accommodating, so disabled people are forced to work out their own way of doing things. Despite a lifetime of doing just this, the prospect of not only my life but the life of someone else being reliant on Scarlett’s adaptive techniques, was terrifying.

Fortunately, in the smaller corners of the Internet, I did find some disabled parents sharing their very valuable expertise. So, it was reassuring to learn, I wasn’t the first pregnant disabled woman and I certainly wasn’t going to be the last.[1]

I wrote, Breastfeeding with Hemiplegia, in the hope that at least one parent-to-be without full use of both hands might read it, and feel that breastfeeding could be possible. Disabled people are the most skilled adapters, but when you know that something has been done before, it feels all the more achievable.

So, today, I am going to list some products and tips that I found made parenting more accessible. Before that, I want to stress that me finding these products accessible doesn’t make them accessible for all disabled people. Hopefully, at the very least, they can help you to think through what you have to consider before your baby is born. [2] Moreover, I want to make clear that it is okay to ask for help with meeting your child’s needs. You can’t do it all, and that is what it is.


The YoYo

I am the eldest of an all-girl family and have done my fair share of babysitting. Buggy-buying can be as grand and varied as car-buying. One of my younger sisters had a buggy so heavy that I had to contend with her weight and the weight of the buggy. This was particularly painstaking when we needed to cross the road and there was no slope in the pavement. My lifting skills have never been something to behold.

The YOYO was recommended to me because it is super light and nibble. Using it, I only really have to contend with my child’s weight: I don’t also have to struggle with the weight of the buggy itself. I have shocked myself by being able to lift the YOYO up two steps – something I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I was pregnant.

One downside to the YOYO is that the buckle is quite tricky. You have to hold both pieces at once and then push it in place.



The Najell Baby-Carrier

It was really important for me to be able to use a baby-carrier, as I wanted to be able to travel beyond walking distance.

I cannot drive. I have a hard time lifting a car-seat, so I wouldn’t be taking taxis anywhere. Public transport, specifically the tube, has always been my legs-beyond-legs. But I cannot carry a pram up and down the steps to a tube.[3] Many parents find themselves turning to baby-wearing because it is the easiest way to move about with a content baby.

I did some research. I came across a video of a mother putting on a Najell baby-carrier with only one hand. The greatest plus of the Najell is that it has magnetic buckles. This completely takes out the stress of trying to do and undo buckles, something I find challenging, even without simultaneously having to sooth and bop a baby. The magnetic buckles also have togs on them, making them even more user-friendly. There is one buckle at the back that needs to be clipped, but it is so chunky that it is not fiddly at all. I did a few at-home practices before we went anywhere, but this product turned out to be incredibly useful.


Products That Weren’t So Useful

I bought a band that essentially strapped my daughter to me whilst I was sitting. This was so that I could be handsfree whilst my daughter felt “held”. It was useful for when she was sitting up, but the older she got, the more curious she became, and with curiosity, comes grabby-hands. So, soon enough, she was on my lap but grabbing everything she possibly could – and I wasn’t handsfree, as my hands were busy taking everything she grabbed out of her hands.


For a time, I owned a changing mat with straps. It was meant to hold down the baby’s arms so that they didn’t try to escape as you changed their nappy. However, it was too much effort to wrangle my daughter into the changing mat. The easiest way to get a baby to be compliant for nappy-changing, which is something I definitely need (nappies are FiDdLy), is to have something to distract them. Whether that’s a toy, a chat, or the television.



Clothes…

Baby clothes can be extremely fiddly. When I was pregnant, I practiced dressing a doll. I knew the tiny poppers would fill me with dread. Dolls are not like babies. Babies writhe and get cross and want milk. However, it did help my left hand to practice being more dexterous than it was used to being.

Moreover, I’d advocate for steering away from fiddling clothes (no matter how pretty) and opting for clothes you can pull on and off. Clothes that have minimal complicated fastenings. Being forced to be more dexterous on a fed-up baby’s time doesn’t help anyone. It made my fingers stiff and painful.

Family and friends can get carried away with clothes shopping. My daughter has outfits I’ve passed straight on to other people because it would just be too stressful to get them on her. Loved ones are unlikely to look at baby clothes and immediately see the tiny buttons or the awkwardly placed zipper, but you can ask them to be mindful of your body’s limitations.


My daughter is only two so we have plenty more of being limited by Mummy’s body to come. And that’s okay. We’ll adapt. We’ll work it out.


[1] Spoiler alert: Disabled people have sex and sex can lead to babies. Hence, disabled pregnant people. [2]I have limited use of my left hand, poor balance, and general weakness. Click here for the full run-down of what my disability entails.

[3] Note: more accessible public transport please!


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