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Grandparenting in the modern age

Grandparents can be a great source of help and reassurance for new parents as they navigate their sleep deprived way through the first weeks and months with a newborn. Supporting new parents in their journey can be a wonderful experience, and as grandparents you can enjoy the love and joy a new baby brings, without all the responsibilities of being the parent!

In all the excitement of welcoming a new baby into the family it’s important to remember that parenting guidelines and practices change over the years and the way a grandparent may have cared for their new babies may be different to what paediatric professionals now recommend. Being aware of current guidelines in relation to feeding, sleeping and safety can make you an invaluable care-giver for your grandchild, able to offer practical help, emotional support and the benefit of your experience. Here are a just a few areas where things have changed:

Change time: In Grandma’s day talcum powder was a mainstay on the change table but current studies show talc can irritate babies’ lungs. An alternative can be cornstarch powder which is readily available at chemists and major supermarkets.

Sleep guidelines: Many grandparents would have put baby to bed and allowed them to sleep on their sides or tummies. Research now shows that back sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent. Research also shows that babies should be put to sleep in a cot with a firm mattress minus the toys, bumpers, pillows and blankets that may have adorned the cots of grandparent’s babies.

Feeding: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life before introducing solids. Our grandmothers would have probably started adding foods such as baby cereal well before six months with many encouraged to wean as early as three months.

Wrapping: Many babies like to be swaddled to help them feel safe and secure but older techniques where babies were wrapped tightly all over have now been linked to hip dysplasia. Wrapping techniques now keep bub’s arms and hands tucked away and snug but leave room for movement from the waist down.

Grandparents can often find it challenging when their children choose to parent in a different way to them, but this is often because we have learnt new things or sometimes rediscovered parenting practices that we now understand to be beneficial. It can be helpful to talk about how things have changed with your parents (soon to be grandparents) before your baby arrives so there’s less conflict when you return home with your bundle of joy.