Mother on bed rest can keep toddler occupied

Child Life

March 08, 1998|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I have a 3-year-old son, and I am four months pregnant and will be on bed rest my entire pregnancy. I don't want my son to feel that this baby is something bad that happened, because I can't be up and doing fun things with him. What should I tell him, and how can I deal with an active child while I'm in bed for so long?

By turning couches into art studios and stocking up on books and videos, several readers have kept these dreaded doctor's orders from becoming prison sentences.

"Bed-rest pregnancies don't have to make you shut down your life," says Pamela A. Toussaint, co-author of "Mama's Little Baby: The Black Woman's Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby's First Year" (Dutton, $24.95, Canada, $32.99).

Start by explaining, "Mommy needs to be quieter now and rest more so she can give you a new baby brother or sister who is healthy," Toussaint suggests.

A straightforward approach is best, agrees Judith Maloni, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Nursing who researches the effects of bed rest on women.

"Just state what is happening -- that you are resting so the baby can grow and be healthy when it's born," she says. "Don't say that you are sick, because the child will worry."

Telling the child is the easy part. Then the trick is to keep the child's schedule as normal as possible, Maloni says. Coming up with a routine that is healthy for mother and child is a challenge that many Child Life readers have faced in creative ways.

While on bed rest, Sharie Beebe of Phoenix, Ariz., worked out a routine for her 3-year-old that included preschool two days a week and lots of books, music and cartoons with Mom.

Melissa Carson of Mesquite, Texas, turned the bottom shelf of her refrigerator over to her 3- year-old while she was on bed rest for six months. Her husband stocked it with healthy snacks, lunch and juice, so her son could help himself.

To provide a place to build blocks, work puzzles and make crafts, cut off the legs of an old card table and put it next to the couch or bed along with a little chair, suggests Shelley Selle of Tegacay, S.C.

Mother and son can have fun taping songs and creating skits, says reader Barbara Albert of Madison, Ohio. Also, they may be able to do a few bed-rest exercises together, such as foot, wrist, arm and neck circles, Toussaint says.

Stacks of books and busy boxes full of glue, tape, magazines, paper and crayons are must-haves to make it through bed rest, readers say.

Lisa M. Hotung found that she qualified for frequent library-book deliveries for the elderly and infirm in Amherst, N.Y. Other mothers, including Margaret Weber of Charlotte, N.C., also enjoyed reading to their children or listening to their youngsters tackle read-along and pop-up books.

"As soon as we had lunch, we'd go to bed with a stack of books, and I'd read to him until we both went to sleep," Weber recalls.

Cozy time creates a bond, but child care or preschool -- at least part time -- can ease the stress, experts and readers say.

"The mother needs some help, because she'll always be forced to decide between the baby on the inside and the child on the outside," Maloni says.

Working out child care on a weekly basis is stressful, so ideally the mother can make firm arrangements for the rest of her pregnancy, she says.

If a family cannot afford child care away from home, Maloni says, the mother needs to turn to relatives, friends, students and church or synagogue volunteers.

One way to find these resources, Maloni suggests, is to contact a national support group called Sidelines. About 5,000 volunteers in chapters across the United States have been through high-risk pregnancies and are trained to help women cope while they're "on the sidelines."

For more information on Sidelines, call the group's headquarters in Laguna Beach, Calif., at 714-497-2265, or visit its Web site at

Can you help?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at 800-827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2322 Hales Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27608, or send e-mail to

* Perfect moms: "When I go to other moms' houses, it seems they're always perfectly straight, and they have the children and the dinner and everything under control," says R. W. of Raleigh, N.C. "I never do. I have three kids, and I'd like to know if there's some secret ingredient here that I'm missing. I'd like to hear from those perfect moms how they do it!"

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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