There’s nothing more exciting than becoming a new grandparent — except maybe becoming a new parent. When grandchildren are first born, it’s only natural that grandparents would want to give helpful advice or pitch in with child care. And with all that experience under their belt, why not?
“As a grandparent, you have an important role with wisdom and life experience to share,” says Tina Holland, supervisor of Women’s Education and Women’s and Guest Services at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. “I often hear new grandparents saying how today’s parents are fortunate to have so much information at their fingertips.”
Indeed, much has changed — from sleeping positions and swaddling to breastfeeding and even options for circumcision. The number one question Tina receives is “How can we support our adult children?” The answer, she says, is to listen.
“Validating their feelings and praising them for the wonderful job they are doing is most important,” says Holland. “Provide guidance when asked and respect their boundaries and requests.”
Tips for caring grandparents
Holland says that another way to offer support is to attend the Grandparenting Class, offered by Sharp Mary Birch. Class participants learn a brief history of childbirth and information on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They also learn the latest recommendations in diapering; burping; bathing and calming techniques; car seat safety; childproofing; and sleep strategies.
“Taking this class will bring you up to speed on the latest evidence-based research and what’s safe in baby care right now,” Holland says.
Until they can join a class, it’s important for grandparents to know some of the main infant care guidelines that have changed since they cared for their own children. These recommendations include:
- Put baby to sleep on their back. Not only is it the fastest position for baby to get to sleep, but it also decreases the chance of SIDS.
- Nothing goes in the crib except baby. That means no pillows, toys, bumper pads, or heavy blankets, comforters and quilts. These items could lead to suffocation.
- When babies are awake, they need periods of tummy time throughout the day. This strengthens their core, upper body and neck, as well as helps prevent flat spots on the back of their head.
- Babies should not consume cow’s milk for their first year of life — only breastmilk or formula.
- To help reduce allergies, wait four to six months before introducing solid foods.
- For the first two years of life, put baby in a rear-facing car seat to maximize protection of the head, neck and spine.
- Use a talc-free baby powder. Baby powder containing talc can cause breathing trouble and lung damage for babies.
- Babies shouldn’t sleep in bed with their parents — or grandparents. Adult beds tend to be too soft for infants and have pillows, blankets and comforters that could pose a suffocation hazard.