Caring for babies is a stressful but fulfilling task. It is hard to care for babies, especially if you are a first-time mom. What about if your baby is born with intellectual or physical disabilities? These babies need extra care and attention. Not only that, as parents, mothers in particular, you need to be well-informed and aware of the pros and cons of the situation.
These disabilities may be caused by premature birth, difficulty in giving birth, or by conditions which may happen to the mother during pregnancy (chromosomal condition).
The care for babies with physical or intellectual disabilities are supervised by paediatricians. They are doctors who specialize in caring for children and babies). Talking to your doctor will be a big help. Your doctor is the best person to answer your questions and advice and guide you on what to do.
INITIAL REACTION OF A MOTHER
It is normal for a mother to be confused initially, upon learning that her baby is born with a disability. It may be very difficult for a mother to absorb things that are happening, especially if she has just given birth.
When a mother has just given birth, she is filled with different kinds of emotions. The most common is, of course, joy. Some, especially first time moms, will be in awe (imagine being able to bring life into this world), and later on, apprehension.
Once apprehension sets in, there will be fear. A lot of questions may pop up in a new mom’s mind. Will she be able to take care of her baby properly? Will she be a good mom? And a lot of other questions.
A new mother may be even more confused and apprehensive when she finds out that most babies with disabilities (especially intellectual disabilities) will not be able to communicate with their parents properly. This is where your doctor will be a great help.
When it comes to having babies with special needs, a mother may also feel anger. Angry at herself, angry with the world. She may also experience the feeling of inadequacy. Has she done something wrong during pregnancy? Is she an irresponsible mother? These questions usually arise. No use in blaming yourself, if you are the mother of a baby with special needs. The keyword is acceptance.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
The first thing a mother should do is accept her baby’s condition. Acceptance makes it easier for you to cope. You have to start with yourself first. Believe that you can do it. Have faith in yourself that you will be able to handle the situation properly, and do it successfully.
It is standard procedure for your doctor to give you instructions and tips on how to handle and care for your baby while still in the hospital. Take down notes. If you are not up to it yet, have somebody else take down notes for you. You can read these notes and acquaint yourself with it until you memorize them by heart.
Do not rattle or be nervous. Stay calm. Do not allow stress, confusion and fear dwell in your mind. You will not be able to think clearly and properly if you are in panic mode.
There are cases where the baby has to be left in the hospital while the mother can already go home. Despite this arrangement, always see to it that you visit your baby frequently and make your baby feel that he or she is loved, that you are always there. This will form a bond between you and will help you get to know and understand your baby better.
If you have questions or need clarifications on some things, it is best that you talk to your doctor, a midwife, nurse, or counsellor. They are the best persons who are professionally capable in helping you ease the burden you are carrying and answer the questions which may cause you confusion.
You can also join support groups. Ask your doctor if there are groups whose members are parents with babies who have disabilities and join the group. This way you will be able to interact with parents who are in the same situation as you are. Interacting with them can be educational and you may learn a thing or two from them which you can apply.
POSSIBILITY OF A DAYCARE CENTER OR A CAREGIVER
If you have a baby with special needs, you might want to consider a daycare center or a caregiver. This may be a possibility if you are a working mother. If you opt for a caregiver, make sure that the person you hire is capable, has a good track record, is a licensed caregiver, and will truly take care of your baby properly.
If you decide to go for a day care center, remember that a license is not the only thing a day care center must have. There are things you have to consider if you go around looking for a day care center:
- Caregiving Training – the centers staff must be properly trained to handle various situations and problems which may arise especially when it comes to your baby’s special needs.
- Health Care Needs – you must be aware and make yourself familiar with your child’s legal rights. Look for a day care facility which respects and upholds those rights. There are centers which do not allow administering medication for your child. Make sure you choose one which do not have mush restrictions, especially if it comes to the safety and health of your baby.
- Accreditation – check out also the accreditation of the center and its caregivers and staff.
- Cleanliness – now this you also have to consider. The facility must be clean, inside out. Babies with special needs need a clean environment. Unclean surroundings and equipment may cause allergies and/or complications to your baby. Babies with special needs must be dealt with extra care and attention, and need to be provided with a clean environment.
- Infant to Adult Ratio – babies with special needs must be constant attention. Make sure that the day care center you choose has at least a 1:4 ratio. Meaning a maximum of four babies per one caregiver. This will ensure you that your baby will be taken care of properly.
The most important thing which parents, the mother especially, must do if her child has special needs is to fill her baby’s life with love – lots and lots of love. Love has a magic which no one can explain.