Occupational therapy helps proud father care for newborn

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New parents face countless challenges when preparing to welcome a baby into their home for the first time. For Nova Scotia’s Chelsea and Michael Coady (pictured above) that meant anticipating one that rarely crosses parent’s minds; how to hold and carry your newborn.

“I use a manual wheelchair for mobility, and to move around I need my hands free to wheel,” says Michael. “This proves difficult when you also need your hands to hold and care for a baby.”

Both Michael and Chelsea strongly value the role of fatherhood and were determined to make best use of Michael’s ability to participate in hands-on caring for their baby. As an occupational therapist (OT) at the IWK, Elaine Churchill appreciated the importance of the parenting role, and the vast array of tasks and emotions that go along with it. OTs, along with colleagues from across the health centre, often collaborate with clients to promote success and satisfaction in “occupational engagement,” which covers everything needed and wanted to accomplish everyday roles and routines.

“Several months ahead of their delivery, we met to discuss their hopes and concerns. We explored what types of modifications to equipment and tasks might be helpful to make his participation in parenting a success,” says Elaine. “As we explored this further, we honed in on the type of carrier that he felt might work best for him. Unfortunately, there is very little commercially available adaptive equipment for parents who have disabilities.”

Elaine knew the equipment had to be light weight and easy to attach to the wheelchair. Once she found the right equipment to modify (an infant bouncy chair) she enlisted the help of the Tetra Society, a volunteer organization who create custom assistive devices. Carl Anderson, a volunteer with Tetra, offered to help create the custom “baby carrier” which attaches to Michael’s wheelchair, allowing him to successfully move in to the father role with his beautiful baby, Seth.

“The equipment is exactly what we requested and is making such a difference in our lives,” says Michael. “It will be even more essential as baby Seth gets bigger and outgrows some of the strategies I am using now.”