Grandparents:how times have changed
Last Sunday was National Grandparents Day and I read a statistic that was shocking to me: “Grandparents lead 37% of all U.S. households in this country — that’s 44 million households nationwide.” Grandparents play a vital role in families and should have a day to be celebrated by those who love them.
A little history about Grandparents Day. A woman named Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade of West Virginia started pursuing her goal to honor the importance of Grandparents in 1970 but it did not become a holiday until President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day in 1979. Her three main purposes for creating National Grandparents Day were to:
- Honor grandparents.
- Give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children.
- Help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.
Parenting practices have changed tremendously over the past 20 to 50 years as guidelines and recommendations have further developed. As a result, these changes have contributed to many communication issues between parents and grandparents. Sometimes, feelings get hurt and misinformation is handed out leading to frustrated and overwhelmed parents. What can we do to help smooth this out for all generations? Educate Educate Educate.
I love including grandparents in family and newborn care. By learning how grandparents parented their own children and dispelling myths with evidence based research, it is easier to help them see how times have changed and how they can best support their grandchildren. My goal is to bring families closer together and allow everyone to peacefully celebrate the newest family member. The three biggest topics I discuss with grandparents are: sleeping, breastfeeding and spoiling, however I am knowledgeable about plenty of other topics.
Prior to 1992 when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) introduced placing babies on their sides or backs to sleep, most babies slept on their tummies. In 1994, the Back to Sleep education campaign was introduced to share research stating that it is best for babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). 1996 brought the AAP revision of their recommendations again to add that babies be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm surface with no soft bedding. In 2000, the Back to Sleep campaign revised its message again to include that bed sharing may be “considered hazardous under certain situations.” Yes, there have been several revisions since 2000 but the current recommendation is still BACK TO SLEEP and sleeping in their parent’s room, not same bed, for at least the first 4-6 months!
Did you know that the infants grandmother has the most influential impact on whether the mom exclusively breastfeeds? Yes, this is true! Grandma’s, it is ok if you did not nurse, you can still support your daughter or daughter in law. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to boost the new mother’s breastfeeding confidence. Moms with newborns want and need your support! Do not let lack of breastfeeding knowledge and/or experience influence how you provide support.
Ways to help breastfeeding moms: offer to go to a breastfeeding class with them. Read about the numerous benefits of breastfeeding. Bring pillows for support, food for nourishment and water for hydration. Research evidence based websites together if they are struggling (kellymom.com). Keep moms company when they sit down to nurse. Offer to burp baby in between breasts. Snuggle babies between feeds so mom gets a little break, but encourage her to feed on demand, not on a schedule. Reassure her that she has enough milk for her baby and she does not need to supplement (unless the lactation consultant/pediatrician is concerned). Build up moms confidence and help her trust her instincts, ask for help when needed and together you can get through the initial challenges of breastfeeding.
Last but certainly not least is that holding your baby all the time will spoil them. This is not the case! Study after study show how crucial touch is for your baby’s growing development. Babies are completely incapable of being manipulative, therefore unable to “be spoiled” by being held all the time. Meeting your babies’ needs by quickly responding, snuggling, singing and talking to them immediately builds trust, safety and security for your infant.
Research shows that holding your babies results in less crying and more contented babies. Who doesn’t want that? Therefore grandparents, encourage your family to hand the baby over to you for cuddle time. Share with the newest member how their parents were as babies. If you are comfortable, ask to wear the baby. Keep the baby close. Holding and responding to your grand baby’s cry’s is meeting their basic needs. You will have plenty of time to SPOIL them later in life.
Some things haven’t changed much
Disposable diapers are pretty much the same but definitely more absorbent. Most have newborn cutouts for the umbilical cord and lines that change color when baby is wet. Cloth diapers are making a comeback and are much easier to use these days with buttons instead of diaper pins. Swaddling blankets are made bigger and therefore easier to swaddle. Sleep sacks are pretty common and have made swaddling a breeze for parents and grandparents alike.
It is hard to keep up with the constant changes in the world of moms, babies and families. As a grandparent-to-be or a veteran grandparent, ASK first how you can help and then support the parent’s decisions. One of my many roles as a professional RN/Doula/Lactation Educator is to inform and educate. I discuss the current recommendations and guidelines as to the WHY. Then it becomes the parents job to think about and apply what they believe will be the best decision for their family.
“I do not hold grandparents to be glorified babysitters but rather as parents’ surrogates who bring love, a continuance of generational values, and a sense of the child’s worth to the integrity of the family…” Marian McQuade