Summary: A parent with sight loss can perform all of the tasks that a sighted parent can, although it may take a little longer, and practical, simple adaptations may need to be made. Every parent will develop their own ways of doing things but here are some suggestions that may help.
Knowing where your children are
- If you have some vision, it is often useful to dress your baby in contrasting colour clothing, for example a dark babygro on white bed sheets or yellow babygro on navy sheets. This will make it easier for you to locate your baby.
- Talk a lot to your children so that they will answer with a noise of some sort, which will tell you where they are.
- You can usually locate a toddler or child in the room, as they will probably make noise walking around, playing with toys or talking.
- Consider using a baby monitor. This can be useful for toddlers and slightly older children so that you can hear what they are up to.
- You might also consider using a child safety harness or insisting on holding their hand to keep them close when out and about in public places.
- Fire guards, cooker guards and gates at top and bottom of the stairs will all help with safety around the home. You can also use childproof locks on cupboard doors containing medicines, dangerous substances, breakables or sharp objects like knives. Insert safety covers onto electrical sockets.
- You will also have to be aware of your own safety too. Some parents have a rule that no toys are to be left in the kitchen, thereby reducing the risk of tripping while carrying something hot. Encourage children to tidy their toys away when finished playing with them. Use gates at the kitchen door when you are cooking, as a fast-moving, crawling toddler can become a potential hazard.
- A toddler chair or playpen can be useful when you are doing household chores.
- When carrying a baby or toddler, you should carry them in front of your body or up against your shoulder in order to avoid banging their head against doorframes or other obstacles.
- Carry your baby in a front pouch. This leaves your hands free for cane use or carrying shopping.
Changing and dressing
- Change your baby or toddler on the floor or on your lap so that they will not fall. You may find nappy changing and dressing easier to perform with your baby sitting on your lap. When sitting with a baby on your lap have your knees slightly higher so that if the baby rolls, it will roll towards your body and not away from you.
- Use baby wipes instead of wool and lotion as it may be less messy and there is only one object to locate.
- You might consider pinning outfits together before they are washed so that they remain colour coordinated.
- It is often easier to feed a toddler from a spoon when they are sitting on your lap, particularly in relation to locating your baby or toddler’s mouth.
- If a child is familiar with spoon-feeding, he or she will probably come forward with his or her face to take food from you and you may not have to feel for the child’s mouth.
- When your baby starts to feed him/herself, suction bowls can prevent your baby from knocking their bowl over.
- Special plastic mats are available which can be placed under a high chair and this may help in the clean-up after feeding time.
- For the measurement of quantities of liquid, it is helpful to have a sighted person check and mark the full capacity of various household utensils; for example, a child’s beaker may measure 6 fl.oz when full to the brim. It is important to measure the correct quantity before heating any liquid, to avoid scalding.
Lighting and colour
- Use colour and contrast wherever possible. For example, by pouring milk into a red mug, you may be able to see the milk rise. Potato in a blue dish may be easier to see than in a white one.
- Make sure to use the maximum lighting available when carrying out tasks. Consider using task lamps to increase lighting in a specific area.
Aids and appliances
A number of specialised items are available from NCBI resource centres, such as:
- A dispenser which measures 5mls from a 200-500ml bottle;
- Liquid level indicators;
- Colour coding buttons for identification of clothing colours;
- Talking body thermometer;
- Talking bathroom weighing scales. By weighing yourself first and then with the baby in your arms, it will give you the baby’s weight.
- Consider using a steam or microwave steriliser as they do not involve measuring liquids, and bottles are stored together until cool.
- Is there good contrast in colour between bottle and the markings on its side? Fussy pictures and colours can make it difficult to see these marks. A wide-necked bottle can be easier to fill.
- Baby milk that comes in packets can cause difficulty when filling the scoops. Consider emptying each packet into a wide plastic container so that scoops can be filled over it, allowing excess powder to fall back into the container.
- Run the blade of a knife across the ‘scoop’ to get a level measure.
- If you have difficulty remembering how many scoops have been filled, you could use an abacus, pushing one counter to the side for each scoop filled, or use something at home to count, like placing a chickpea in a yoghurt carton for each scoop.
- Use a funnel of the correct size to pour liquid into bottles.
- It may be difficult to gauge the amount of liquid. Find a mug, cup or carton that holds the required number of ounces or millilitres and use this to fill the bottle.
- Make up all the bottles together so that there is no confusion as to which bottle is fresh and which is old.
When bathing your baby, you will soon get the feel of what to do when you do it yourself, maybe with someone there to watch over you for the first time.
- As a safety precaution, run cold water into the bath first or use mixer taps.
- It may be more useful to use baby bath or liquid soap as this prevents having to search for the soap if it falls into the bath.
- Baby seats, which are placed in the bath, are available and will leave your hands free for washing.
A little thought and organisation can help you to find what you are looking for.
- Gather all the equipment needed for feeding, changing, bathing in advance.
- Label all substances and containers.
- Dangerous items must be locked away and sharp objects and medicines put out of reach.
- Changing baskets and special baby / toddler drawers and cupboards with labelled compartments can help you to find what you need more easily.
Public Health Nurse
Use the help and support of your local public health nurse who will offer you advice and practical support about caring for your baby. You can contact your public health nurse by calling your local health centre or call the Health Service Executive information line on 1850 24 1850, Monday to Saturday between 8am and 8pm.
Arrange a Meeting with an NCBI Community Resource Worker
Your NCBI community resource worker can help you in a number of ways, including providing you with emotional support, assisting you in applying for entitlements and offering you practical advice and support. The easiest way to find out what services are available to you is to meet with a community resource worker in your local NCBI centre.
LoCall 1850 33 43 53 to make an appointment.
NCBI Library Service
Our library has the facility to source a book in an accessible format on a specific topic such as pregnancy or breastfeeding upon request. The Child Health Information Service has produced a useful publication called Caring for Your Baby: Birth to Six Months Old. This publication is available on CD from the NCBI library.