Enrich your grandbaby’s first year!
Your sleeping, waking, crying, eating, rocking, rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, cruising, walking, talking GRANDbaby
BY CHERYL HARBOUR
You have a new GRANDbaby! It’s a major milestone for you and just the beginning of the baby’s major developments. You’ll be an important person in this child’s life. The more you know, the more you can add to his or her well-being and development through all the important stages.
There are two important things to know about the milestones during an infant’s first year of life:
- Babies make amazing progress this year. They go from being able only to sleep, cry, and eat to moving around and exploring their world. They become individuals with RUBRIC “minds of their own” in a very real sense. And, they develop an entire range of emotions.
- There is no rigid timetable for when an infant will accomplish certain tasks. Don’t let your expectations get in the way of enjoying every minute.
Here is a basic “milestone map” with suggestions for how you can enjoy and interact with this baby and share this wonderful adventure.
The baby starts to get oxygen from his or her own lungs and begins regulating body temperature. Sometimes the baby gets help in regulating temperature by being placed in an incubator. An Apgar test is given to quickly evaluate condition in five areas: Appearance (skin coloration), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace response (medically known as “reflex irritability”), Activity and muscle tone, and Respiration (breathing rate and effort). Each category is worth two points — so the maximum score is 10. The test was designed to signal to professionals that a baby scoring less than 7 may need some immediate care — but is not meant to predict long-term health.
Babies get additional tests to identify conditions that may require treatment – but these conditions are extremely rare. What is very common, though, is jaundice – and If the baby has any signs of jaundice, he or she may spend some time under a bilirubin light.
Then your GRANDbaby is ready for the milestone of going home!
What newborns like:
- Being cuddled and touched
- Soft rhythmic sounds
- Quiet singing or talking
- Baby talk – studies show babies like the higher pitch and slower pace many adults use when they talk to babies
- Gazing at your face – after the first few days, when their eyes begin to focus, they can see about 8 to 15 inches
- Gentle rocking or swaying
0 to 3 months
Possible milestones during this time:
- Lifting head briefly when on tummy
- Holding head steady when upright
- Focusing on a face
- Cooing, squealing, laughing
- Reacting to a sound, begin to turn in that direction
- Beginning to reach for an object and trying to grasp it
- Bringing hands together
- Smiling, usually randomly
What babies at this age like:
- The sound of your voice
Start talking to your new GRANDbaby immediately and continually. In their book titled Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, Betty Hart, Ph.D., and Todd Risley, Ph.D., stress the important influence of talkative families, concluding children in those families had a higher IQ at age 3 and better test scores at age 9 than those in less talkative ones.
- Talk about what you’re doing and what’s in front of you.
- Give names to objects and body parts.
- Change your pitch and tone of voice.
- In addition to talking — read and sing.
But, be aware of when to take a break. When a baby has had enough, he or she may start looking away or turning away or get fussy.
- New things to see, hear and touch
During the first three months of life, your grandbaby’s brain is developing at a rapid rate. What’s happening is sometimes called “brain wiring” – connections between brain cells are being made.
- Introduce colorful objects.
- Use books but don’t worry about following the story. Books with texture offer a chance to feel new things
- Follow your GRANDbaby’s gaze. A fluttering curtain? I light fixture? Talk about it.
- Is the baby noticing a bird chirping or a car zooming by.? Stop and listen – talk about it.
3 to 6 months
Possible milestones during this time:
- Sitting with steady head, needing support at first, then less support
- Keeping head aligned with back when pulled to sitting
- Bearing some weight on legs and eventually, pulling himself or herself up when holding on to someone
- Rolling over
- Grasping items and passing them from one hand to the other
- Trying to hold on to a toy or object (your keys, sunglasses, etc.) when you try to take it away
- Babbling, expanding range of sounds
- Smiling back when you smile
- Developing the ability to eat solid food
- Extending periods of continuous sleep at night.
What babies at this age like:
- Sing-song melodies
- Funny faces
- Their own face in a mirror
- Making adults laugh
- “Raspberries” on the tummy or the feet (SOME babies love this)
- Dancing in your arms
- Watching things
Babies tend to like sharp contrasting colors or black and white designs, rather than muted colors. Typically, babies like gazing at things from the side, instead of looking straight up. To encourage tracking of moving objects, move a toy or other item from some one side of the baby’s sight line to the other.
- Reaching for things
When your grandbaby starts reaching for objects, remember that young babies will only reach for an item offered from the side, not from the front.
At this age, continue to talk to your grandbaby and, especially, as he or she nears the age of six months, add to your repertoire.
Point out qualities of the objects in front of both of you. “This blanket is soft.” “This light is bright.”
Describe what objects are for. “Socks keep your feet warm.” “The spoon stirs the food.”
Tune in together to sounds. “The dog is barking…woof, woof.” “Look at the truck…vroom, vroom.”
Begin asking the baby to respond to commands. “Wave bye bye.” “Give Grandma a cuddle.” (But don’t expect the appropriate response just yet.)
Nanny or Granny?
More and more grandparents are helping with childcare for their grandchildren. It’s estimated that more than 60% of grandparents provide some childcare.
If grandparents are providing more than a parents’ night out or occasional “sitting” – and are instead the major source of childcare – there are pros and cons to consider. Thinking through the situation ahead of time may save awkward situations or hurt feelings – either theirs or yours.
- How many days are you available, given the other aspects of your life? Being a grandparent doesn’t mean you must give up your hobbies, your friends, and your health. In fact, if you want to stay happy and healthy and be present for the “long-term,” don’t be too quick to eliminate what you love and need.
- Filling the nanny role may add new dimensions to your relationship with your son or daughter and partner. Are they “the boss”? Are they difficult to please? Are they expecting you to be perfect? If so, it might be better to let another person be nanny while you enrich your grandbaby’s life in other ways.
- How will you deal with the issue of nanny pay?
- Are you physically able in terms of the strength and energy to provide the care that an infant…and then a toddler…requires? It could be risky for either you or your grandbaby or both to pretend you can do what you honestly can’t.
On the positive side, here are several considerations:
- Day-to-day or frequent contact with your GRANDbaby gives you the opportunity to build a very special bond and to be there for all the major moments.
- Your arrangement may give your daughter or son and partner a truly priceless gift: peace of mind. The nanny industry is filled with good, honest, dependable people. Even so – you are a known quantity and your love for the grandbaby is guaranteed.
5 Tips for success with granny/nanny arrangement.
- Grandparents have special privileges nannies don’t have. So some families set up different nanny rules and granny rules. In time, children become used to the two separate roles.
- Some families report that encouraging their granny/nanny to accept pay, even if nominal, makes the arrangement seem more mutual. If grandparents don’t actually “need” the extra money, one suggestion is to agree to something less than the going nanny rate. Another idea is for the baby’s parents to express appreciation with something special – paying for a weekend trip or treating them to a “dinner out” each month.
- Keep the family times going so the grandparents only see their grandchild when they’re on duty.
- The responsibility not to “overdo” the time expected for childcare sometimes falls on the baby’s parents. They should be sure the grandparents don’t give up everything else – even if they seem willing to do so.
- Communication is essential. Don’t let mistakes or disagreements turn into resentment. As a Granny/Nanny, you’ll need to respect the baby’s parents’ rules – but to respect the rules, you have to know what they are. It’s important to allow the arrangement to be re-evaluated, “tweaked” or changed as needed.
Here are two videos offering more insights on the role of Granny Nanny
A video featuring an editor of American Baby Magazine discussing using grandparents as babysitters.
A Granny/Nanny from the grandchild’s perspective
6 months to 1 year
Possible milestones during this time:
- Working to get a toy that’s out of reach
- Feeding self with crackers or other finger foods
- Drinking from a cup
- Creeping, crawling, cruising
- Getting up to a sitting position from stomach and to a crawling position from sitting
- Playing peek-a-boo
- Playing patty cake
- Waving bye-bye
- Rolling a ball back and forth
- Understanding “no”
- Using gestures and sounds, and eventually words to try to communicate
- Standing without support
- Taking first steps
What babies like at this age:
- Bouncing on your knees with some kind of silly song
- Knocking down the tower (of soft blocks)
- Playing peek-a-boo, with a towel or your fingers — first in front of your face, then removed
- Where did it go? – a variation on peek-a-boo, using objects
- Clapping games
Most milestones can be encouraged through play. Some babies will start acquiring a new skill and want to keep doing it, over and over. “Practice, practice, practice” is a baby’s natural approach. So you can follow your GRANDbaby’s lead.
Crawling is considered by the experts to be an important skill – not only for mobility but because it’s believed to have a connection to reading. If you want to encourage your grandbaby to crawl, here are a few things you can do:
- Encourage tummy time
- Play games that put objects and toys slightly out of reach
- Get down on your own hands and knees and show baby how much fun it is to crawl.
Keep talking – and asking
The more you talk to your grandchild, the more he or she learns about communication, including sound, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. Studies have shown that a conversation — rather than a monologue — has a greater impact on language skills. In other words, asking questions and letting the baby “answer” is a good idea.
The journey to that one-year-old birthday is an adventure – and one that you and your GRANDbaby can enjoy together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – CHERYL HARBOUR
Cheryl Harbour is the special editor of our “My GRANDbaby” section and author of Good to Be Grand: making the Most of your Grandchild’s First Year, a combination of up-to-date information and grandparently inspiration.