Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What to Buy for a Baby with Clubfoot?

When we found out that Eli was going to be born with clubfeet, it raised a bunch of questions.  But perhaps the biggest (non-medical) question we had was: what do we buy?  What do we buy when it comes to clothes?  What do we buy when it comes to high chairs, car seats, and beds.  We had no idea.  Would the bar interfere?  Would Eli need extra safety precautions?  And unfortunately the intenet didn’t provide a lot of specific advice (nor did our doctors.)

Eli, Deep in Thought
We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the best thing to buy for clubfoot was going to be.  And while I’m sure we don’t have it all figured out quite yet, there are a few things we know for sure:

1.  DO buy extra socks.  You'll want them for the braces to help protect the feet.

2.  DON’T buy pants - pants just encourage you to take off the braces.  Which then encourages you to not keep the braces on.  Instead buy one-piece “snap-up” jumpers and long-sleeved onesies.  (And for the record, parents are encouraged to wear pants, you get funny looks otherwise.)

3.  DO buy strollers / high chairs that have a “swivel” arm.  Some strollers and high chairs require that you “slide” your baby under the bar.  This works well until they begin to grow.  In our case, Eli was in 12 month clothes by his 4 month birthday.  With his bar on, he was easily taller than some 2-year-olds.  He just became unwieldy.  Not to mention heavy.  Being able to open and close a stroller arm made it so much easier getting him in and out of the stroller.  This is the stroller / car seat we use.

4.  DO buy extra long changing tables.  The changing tables we bought for Eli were a bit on the short side.  We have an old house, so we have smaller rooms.  To accommodate this, we bought smaller furniture.  We never dreamed how quickly Eli would grow and how quickly he would start banging his braces on the ends of our furniture.  His changing table looks like a beaver gnaws on it at night.

5.  DO buy pipe insulating foam.  Buy a piece of foam (it comes in a variety of sizes from Home Depot or Lowes) and place it on your child’s brace.  This helps with saving the floor and your furniture.
6.  DON’T buy sleep sacks.  Maybe this one is a personal preference, but Eli hated the confinement of sleep sacks.  Some people say their kids like them, but Eli couldn’t stand them with his casts or braces.  He was already feeling confined by the leg brace (especially the Mitchell bar), the sleep sack just put him over the edge.

7.  DO buy nightgowns.  I’m sorry Eli.

8.  DO buy a thick bumper pad for the crib.  With all the kicking that will happen, the padding will help protect the crib and your baby.

9.  Do buy extra cotton to put into the tops of the casts.  Even when the casts are done correctly, as your baby moves and kicks the cotton slowly wears away.  This can lead to “sharp” edges around the tops that dig into the legs.  We also found that Eli grew so quickly that some weeks even the weekly casting probably wasn’t fast enough to prevent the tops from digging into his chubby little legs.

10.  DON’T buy pink shirts for Easter pictures.  Again, sorry Eli, I couldn't stop your Mom.

Why does all of this matter?  Because as a parent of a kid with a disability, you need all the help you can get.  This isn’t about consumerism, or buying things because you feel guilty.  It’s about setting yourself up, and therefore your kid, for success in dealing with clubfoot.

Going into this I thought I could toughen up.  That if I just manned up enough, I’d be able to force my way through all of this.  But what I’ve realized is that if I don’t do things to make compliance easier on my part, I’m going to take the path of least resistance (in this case, that’s called non-compliance.)  The fatigue, the stress, the frustration will get to you eventually.  So spend the extra money if you can afford it (it’s cheaper than getting more surgery).  And it’s also cheaper than going insane from stress.  Although possibly not as much fun.

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