Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Survival Tips for Homebound Parents with an Immune-Compromised Baby

Flu and RSV season has me homebound with our medically fragile daughter, Emily. Being at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week is challenging. Below are a few tips that have helped me through it:

1) Stroller Walks

Let's face it -- being tethered to your home isn't much fun and becomes really stale after awhile. I'm sure that my neighbors probably think that I have Agoraphobia or am just completely anti-social as I can typically only be seen putting away our trash cans or getting the mail.  But, as a Mommy, I want to do everything that I can to protect my baby from germs and disease, especially since her immune system is still compromised.

Getting out of the house for a stroller ride really helps break-up the monotony.  I've found a few different stroller routes, ranging from two to four miles. It's nice for Mom and baby to take in the outdoors when the weather is a appropriate. 

Tip:  Map out a few different stroller walking routes in advance so that you have multiple options. Place needed items, such as a jacket, blanket, pacifier, stroller weather shield, and a cell phone, out in advance of your walk so that you are well-prepared and can work in your outdoor activity in-between feedings. 

2) Birding

Since we've been experiencing temperatures below zero during the "polar vortex," our stroller rides have been put on hold. I desperately want to go outside and take in any sights other than my loving room, kitchen, nursery, and bedroom. 

I know that it sounds extremely nerdy, but I've started birding from our living room window. Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson made birding look like fun in the comedy movie, "The Big Year," so maybe I can make it can be a cool activity for mothers with homebound babies.

In a Big Year, birders work to see as many species of birds as possible in Northern America in one year. Although I'm not traveling to famous birding migration spots, like Attu Island, or able to see many species, I am enjoying watching the birds and the squirrels gnaw on the bird feeder in our backyard. There's no way that I could complete a Big Year at this point in my life, so I've decided to develop a birding "Life List."  In fact, I'm attempting to take pictures of the birds I see in hopes of identifying them. 

My husband bought me a few birding books for Christmas. It's been exciting to flip through pages and pages of bird pictures to see if any of them are identical to the birds in my backyard. Below are pictures of some of the birds that I've spied.  Can you identify them?

Tip:  It may sound dorky, but if you enjoy wildlife, consider putting up a bird feeder that you can see from the room in which you spend the bulk of your time and record what you see. 


3) Touring Museums at Off-Peak Hours

During the winter months, I hate taking Emily out of the house for fear of the flu and a RSV. On the rare occasions that we do go out, I avoid crowded areas, like shopping malls and grocery stores. That being said, there are times when Momma simply must get out of the house to feel more human. 

I hesitate to share this gem because I'd honestly like to keep it to myself, but I've found that the Udvar-Hazy Center, the companion facility to the Air and Space Center on the National Mall, is virtually empty on Fridays after 4:00 p.m.  Although the museum is only open until 5:30 p.m., it's the perfect amount of time for me to be out of the house in-between feedings. The museum has wide walkways which are very accommodating for strollers and make it relatively easy to distance yourself from any lingering tourists during off-peak hours. As an added bonus, parking (which is typically $15) is free after 4:00 p.m.

Tip:  Check to see if there are any museums in your area that are virtually empty during off-peak hours and in which you would be comfortable taking your baby. 

4) Volunteer

I have reached out to the Graham's Foundation and The March of Dimes, to see if one or both organizations have projects that I can work on for home. I chose these organizations given the great work that they do to help preemies and parents of preemies. 

Tip:  Contact non-profits and other entities which interest you to see if they have any volunteer-from-home opportunities. 

5) Part-Time Opportunities

I've reached out to several friends and colleagues to see if they have any small paid projects that I can work on from home. Although nothing has panned out yet, I'm hoping that I can stay in the game while being a Mommy.

Tip: Contact organizations who are looking for full-time staff to see if you can be of help to them from home while they work to fill full-time slots. 

6) Redbox

If you're like me, you are a cable subscriber. You have a million television channels, but there's nothing to watch. Redbox is a convenient and inexpensive way to watch new movies before they are available on cable. 

Tip:  If there's a new movie that you really want to see, reserve it online at Redbox and pick it up later that day. 

7) Mommy/Daddy Time-Out

While being at home with your baby can very rewarding, it can also be very isolating. I moved to a new town before having a baby and don't know many people who live close by. Very few of my friends have been able to make the trek to our house to visit. Some haven't received their flu shots or the TDap vaccine; others just haven't committed to the drive and visitation time. I've found that it's also difficult to have new friends over without feeling like an interrogator and questioning them about illnesses and the shots and vaccines that they have obtained. Accordingly, I've started to schedule brunches, lunches, and dinners with friends at mutually convenient restaurants. I schedule these get-togethers weeks in advance in order to make arrangements for Craig to watch Emily -- and to have something fun to look forward to. 

Tip:  While it's fun to schedule get-togethers, recognize that meet-ups are frequently cancelled at the last-minute due to illness or schedule changes. That's why it's also important to make arrangements with your spouse to go grocery shopping or to Target on your own every once in awhile. 

Are you homebound during flu and RSV season?  What are you doing to keep from going stir crazy?  Please post any suggestions you would like to share in the comment section. 


  1. These are all good ideas for keeping occupied. It is probably difficult to read a book when the little one is sleeping because that's when you have to take care of household things. Make arrangements for that girls night out -Emily and her daddy will do fine. Keep in mind that you being a full time mom has kept her from getting sick. That is a major plus. Many of my friends grandkids are sick over and over from catching cold etc at daycare and pre school. Keep her healthy and hang in there!