The RA Pregnancy Chronicles: RA Friendly Baby Gear
The RA Pregnancy Chronicles is a series of posts that share my experiences being pregnant while living with RA. This post was written during Week 18 of my second pregnancy.
With my 20-week ultrasound drawing near (where we will get to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl!) this second pregnancy is finally feeling a bit more real. I’m starting to actually envision my life with a newborn and a toddler and RA – and I must admit it’s a bit overwhelming to say the least! Though we are now “experienced” parents, I’m sure that there are many things about having more than one kid that we have yet to learn. And I’m sure we will need some new baby gear to help us manage two little ones at once.
Trying to figure out what baby gear you actually “need” can be extremely overwhelming. There are just so many options and different types of equipment and gadgets and supplies – it’s enough to make anyone’s head explode, especially first time parents! And, for parents who are also dealing with RA, it can be even more confusing because of the extra limits placed on us by RA pain and fatigue. During my first pregnancy my head swam with questions that I didn’t have the first clue how to answer: will my hands function to buckle that car seat? Will that stroller be too heavy for me to lift into the car? Does “baby proof” also mean “arthritis proof”?
I dealt with some of these concerns by doing a lot of research about baby gear during my first pregnancy. And, in the nearly two years that I have been a mom, I have learned a lot more. So I wanted to pass along some of my recommendations for baby gear that I found to be particularly useful in helping me be a mom and live with RA at the same time:
If you plan to have your newborn sleep in your bedroom for any amount of time, you may want to invest in a co-sleeper. A co-sleeper is essentially a mini crib with three sides that securely attaches to your bed on the fourth side. Then, instead of having to get up and out of bed to pick up your baby from a nearby bassinet, your baby will be within arms reach when you are in bed. (In fact, the brand we purchased was even called Arms Reach!) So whether you are dealing with RA pain and/or recovering from a C-section or difficult birth, a co-sleeper allows you to spend more time in bed, get more rest, and still attend to your baby’s needs. So convenient at two o’clock in the morning!
Pajamas With Zippers
For some reason, the vast majority of baby clothes come with teeny, tiny snaps. These snaps are nearly impossible to avoid and, for those of us dealing with arthritic hands, they are a literal pain. I found them to be most frustrating on footie pajamas – where there would be a line of six or eight of them to line up and snap after every diaper change in the middle of the night. Luckily, footie pajamas do seem to be the one type of baby clothing were zippers are a fairly regular option. So even if you have to deal with snaps on onesies and other clothing during the day, do yourself a favor and stick to pajamas with zippers for the middle of the night.
A Lightweight Stroller
A good stroller can be an especially useful tool, particularly when your baby is still riding in an infant car seat that you can attach to the stroller without having to move your baby. There are basically two options for strollers that work with infant car seats. The first is a dedicated infant car seat carrier, like the Snap N Go. The benefits of this option are that they tend to be very lightweight and easy to maneuver, but what I didn’t like about this option is that once your baby grows out of the infant car seat this item essentially becomes a useless piece of equipment in your garage. The second option is a convertible stroller – one that works with the infant car seat but can also be used as a stand-alone stroller later. Unfortunately, most convertible strollers are quite heavy – 40 to 50 pounds all by themselves! And I didn’t fancy hauling something that heavy in and out of the car multiple times a day! So I was very happy to discover the Combi Cosmo Stroller – a convertible stroller with clips for an infant car seat (the Combi Shuttle 33) that is not only easy to fold up but it only weighs about 13 pounds. So we used it with our infant car seat and now, almost two years later, we still use it regularly.
A Good Baby Carrier
You should definitely have a good supply of bouncers and swings and bassinets where you can safely put your baby down when you need a break. However, sometimes carrying your baby will be unavoidable – and that’s where a good baby carrier can really come in handy to make it easier for you. There are lots of different types of carriers out there. Personally, I love the Moby Wrap, especially for tiny newborns, but it can take a bit of practice to learn to wear and it can be a bit hot in the summer time. A mei tai, or traditional Asian-inspired carrier, is another good option (ours was BabyHawk brand), though you have to tie it on which can be a little tricky with achy hands. Another great option is an adjustable soft-sided carrier, which attaches with buckles making them a little easier to put on. We use (and love to this day!) a Becco Gemini, but I have also heard good things about Ergos, Tulas, and Bobas.
There are lots of good baby-wearing options out there, so just be sure to pick one that is comfortable for you. My only caution when it comes to choosing a carrier: for the sake of your baby’s comfort try to pick one that positions the baby in a natural holding position. Carriers like the Bjorn, Snuggli, and Infantino all hold the baby in a fairly narrow seat, leaving the legs to dangle straight down (and earning these carriers the semi-rude nickname “crotch-danglers”) which is not believed to be good for a baby’s developing hips and spine.
If you are hoping to breastfeed your baby, you will probably only be able to do so while you are able to stay off your RA medications. Since most women experience a post-birth flare, this is unfortunately likely to be a relatively short period of time. Since your time may be short, I personally think it is really important to make breastfeeding as easy and successful as possible so that you can make the most of your time nursing. I have several suggestions about products to help with breastfeeding, but I am going to save them for a separate post – so if you are interested in breastfeeding stay tuned!