Sharla Feldscher is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her first grandchild. “My daughter and her husband were childhood sweethearts and have been together for 17 years,” says Feldscher, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this couple to be ready to be parents!”
Whether like Sharla you’ve been impatiently waiting a long time, or were surprised with the news, becoming a grandparent sparks plans, preparation, and anticipation.
What are the newest trends in newborn care? Should you baby-proof your home? Can your grandchild use the crib your children once slept in?
“We are preparing for grandparenthood by redecorating our third bedroom with our first grandchild in mind,” says Feldscher who, despite wanting to re-decorate the room before learning she was going to be a grandparent, is building cabinets for baby clothes and toys and allotting space on the wall for the crib. She explains, “Even though the kids are nearby, we want to make it easy for them to drop off the baby at our house!”
Clear and hidden dangers
According to the Home Safety Council, fires and burns, choking and suffocation, and drowning and submersions are the leading causes of unintentional home injury and death among children age 1 to 4. It is important to make sure your home is just as ready as your heart for your new grandchild. “Since children aren’t present in the home every day, grandparents may be unaware of some of the hazards that exist within their homes,” says President of the Home Safety Council, Meri-K Appy.
To reduce the risk of smoke and fire injury, make sure your smoke alarms are loud enough to wake you from a sound sleep. Ask someone to test the alarms while you are napping to be certain, and “if the alarms do not wake you up, replace them with alarms that have strobe lights and vibration,” says Appy. Devise and practice a fire escape and disaster plan to keep you and your grandchildren safe in the event of an emergency.
“We replaced all the toxic cleaners under the sink with natural and organic cleaners,” says recent new grandmother, Jerri Potok. Cleaning products should have safety caps and if the label says caution, warning, danger or poison, store the product away from food and out of the reach of children.
“My husband and I also completed classes in safety and CPR in the event our grandchild may ever be choking,” says Potok. Look for classes offered through your park district, YMCA or community college that teach infant first aid and CPR or the newest and updated car seat regulations for your state.
“Remove things within his grasp that are small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube, such as coins, marbles, grapes, etc. These things could cause a curious baby to choke,” Appy adds. Although they’re a festive option to announce the birth, or special milestones in your grandchild’s life, latex balloons should not be used in the vicinity of children, “including in a yard where a baby or young child may be lying, sitting or crawling.”
Cords and strings commonly found around the house present a serious strangulation hazard. If your window treatment cord has a loop, cut it in two and securely fasten the cords out of a child’s reach.
If you’re going to set up a crib in your house, it should be empty when your grandchild is sleeping. Take away all soft bedding, pillows, toys and stuffed animals from the crib and position the crib away from windows to prevent falls as well as choking on window treatments. “Never hang pictures, quilts or decorations containing ribbon or string on or over a crib,” Appy adds. Inspect new cribs as well as those cherished family heirlooms for any loose hardware and to verify the spaces between slats are no greater than 2 and 3/8 inches. Appy says, “If a soda can fits through the slat, the baby’s head can too which could cause a strangulation.” The mattress should also fit snuggly in the crib without any gaps.
A member of the board of directors of the American Society of Interior Designers, Theresa Bartolo, of Boca Raton, Florida is acutely aware of child safety issues. When decorating a room in your house for your new grandchild, Bartolo advocates water based, low volatile compound paints and natural materials for rugs and furnishings. She notes, “good ventilation is very important and avoid heavily textured fabrics that trap dust.”
What has changed?
Recent first time grandmother, pediatric nurse practitioner, Debbie Thompson, MS, RN, at Children’s Medical Center Dallas says, “There are several issues a new grandparent should be aware to provide a healthy and safe sleep environment for their grandbaby.”
Thompson stresses that newborns and young infants should be placed on their back to sleep. “This may be a very different approach for grandparents who placed their children on the abdomen to sleep,” Thompson says, “However, since infants in the United States have been placed on their backs to sleep; the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has declined by almost 50%.”
“Contrary to popular tales, babies will not choke when asleep on their backs,” Thompson adds.
There are many strategies that you may be aware of from raising you own children but Thompson advises, “It is important to know that even things we tried on our own children, are not best for our grandchildren.”
Home remedies such as brandy on sore gums, feeding cereal to help a newborn or young infant sleep, or dipping a pacifier in honey or liquor for colic may have unsafe consequences. “For instance, using honey on a pacifier for a young infant potentially passes the bacteria that causes botulism to the child,” Thompson cautions.
Cereal at an early age may make a baby sleep better. It may also give him terrible colic due to the inability of his body to digest the cereal at a young age. “Although cereal is fortified with iron, it has less nutrition and calories than breast milk or formula and the baby will not grow as well if offered routinely at a young age,” says Thompson.
Remember that unlike when your children were young, your grandchild must always be in a child safety seat in the car, even if it is for a short trip down the street. Whether you share a seat with your children or purchase one for your own car, consult a certified car seat technician to assure that your grandchild is riding safely every time they are in your car.