A RA Mom’s Guide to Nursery Preparation
Preparing for a baby becomes an all-consuming process for a mother-to-be. Of course, we try to emotionally prepare ourselves for motherhood, but that’s a difficult and abstract task when the baby isn’t yet in the world. Preparing the nursery, however, is far more concrete. Marketers take advantage of the nesting instinct, and fill store shelves and websites with all sorts of baby gear. Some of it is helpful, some of it is downright silly, and some of it will be effective with some babies and useless with others. All of this gear comes at a cost, so many mothers put a lot of time and thought into their baby registries and shopping lists. For a mother with rheumatoid arthritis, these decisions can be even more involved, as caring for a baby is physically demanding, and moms with RA need all the ergonomic assistance we can get. Here are some of the items that proved important in my ability to care for my babies while dealing with the challenges of arthritis.
Nursery Furniture. Outfitting a nursery can be incredibly expensive. My budget was limited, so I had to make some decisions on which items to splurge on and which items to purchase more cheaply. The item that cost more than any other was my glider and gliding ottoman. Luckily, I had the foresight to realize that I would be spending many hours in that chair, and that I therefore needed a chair that really supported my body, was comfortable, and could move with minimal effort on my part. I went to a number of stores and ended up travelling 70 miles to a larger city until I ended up finding the chair that felt most comfortable. Like Goldilocks, I sat in rocker after glider after recliner until I found the one that fit me just right.
The glider and ottoman were expensive, but I compensated by buying a very inexpensive crib. After all, the baby doesn’t care how fancy the crib is; s/he just needs it to be safe. I also saved money by skipping the purchase of a changing table and instead mounting a changing pad to the top of a dresser. I then bought some cubby shelves to install over the changing table. I used these to store all the diapers, wipes, lotions, etc. that are often stored in a changing table. Not only was the shelving far less expensive than a changing table, but it was also easier on my hips to reach above to grab an item versus having to bend down to take it out of a drawer.
Gear for the Nursery. In addition to the furniture, there are endless options of gear. One of the most important items for an RA mom is a nursing pillow. This is used during feedings, whether the baby is nursed or takes a bottle, and also when holding the baby and rocking her to sleep. A good nursing pillow allows you to comfort the baby and hold her in place with your hands, but the pillow supports all the baby’s weight so that your hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders don’t have to. Not knowing the difference in nursing pillows, I registered for the Boppy, which is the most popular brand on the market. However, once I actually started using it for breastfeeding, I found that it wasn’t tall enough for my height, and that I had to slouch down a bit in the glider, which was very uncomfortable for my shoulders and neck. After six months my baby was so big she was outgrowing the Boppy, so I started exploring other options. That’s when I found the Luna Lullaby nursing pillow. It is more expensive than the Boppy, but I found it well worth the price difference. The Luna Lullaby is much larger than the Boppy, which means that it accommodates a wider range of mother waist sizes; it brings the baby higher up on the mother; and even a two year old can nestle into it comfortably. I no longer had to slouch during feedings, which made nursing my baby far more comfortable for my joints. My youngest is now two-and-a-half and he still likes sleeping with that pillow in his bed, so it ended up being a great value considering the many years we’ve used it.
I knew that it would be hard on my body to bounce a fussy baby, as I had experienced that pain while babysitting. So I invested in a number of baby-moving devices, such as a swing, a bouncy chair, and a rocking sleeper. This last item is a little like a small baby bed on rockers, and it is so light that when the baby moves, it starts rocking. I loved all of these options, and the rocking sleeper was one of my favorites because it required no batteries yet I could rock it with very minimal movement, so it was easy on my joints.
Out and About. The stroller was another selection I made with care. I have done a lot of nannying, and some strollers have wreaked havoc on my wrists. I would try to relieve the strain on my wrists by pushing with my forearms, but then my hips, back, and shoulders would hurt from slumping over the stroller. Just as with the glider, I went to a number of stores so that I could test-drive as many strollers as possible. I didn’t pay any attention to the bells and whistles; I solely focused on how easy it was to push. The one I decided on was lightweight, responded to minimal pressure, and turned on a dime. It has been excellent for my babies and my joints.
I also did my homework when it came to baby carriers. If I read a single review that said a baby carrier was hard on the lower back, I crossed it off the list of possibilities. I ended up using a couple of different carriers: one that my baby preferred and one that was most comfortable for me. It was actually nice to have a couple of different models, as I would feel the weight of the baby on different joints with each, so I could give one set of joints a break by switching to the other carrier.
As far as car seats are concerned, I wanted one that was safe, and also one that I could easily handle. I again relied on in-store models versus internet shopping so that I could test the buckles and see how much strain each model put on my hands to close and open. One of the most important pieces of baby gear I purchased was a car seat carrier, which is like a stroller frame that the infant car seat snaps into. This way, you don’t have to wake a sleeping baby to take him out/put him in the car, yet you don’t have to strain your hands, wrists, and elbows by lugging around the infant car seat on your arm.
Caring for a baby is a lot of hard work, and can be especially taxing on a parent with RA. However, with a little additional planning and preparation, one can find a number of products that do reduce the strain of parenthood on an arthritic body.