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Sorry, Gramps, You’re No Expert: Are the people who raised you qualified to care for your child?

Research presented at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies this month warns of a grave threat to America’s children: Grandma and Grandpa. The study suggests older people are so hopelessly out of date on child-rearing recommendations that they may put their beloved grandchildren at risk.

Of 636 grandparents surveyed, nearly a quarter didn’t know that babies are supposed to be put to sleep on their backs. “We shouldn’t assume that just because they’ve raised a child before, they’re experts,” Andrew Adesman, who led the research, told CNN.

Except—big except!—you don’t need to be an “expert” to raise a child. If you did, there would be no Kardashians. Children are hearty creatures, built to withstand Siberian winters, steaming jungles and even American suburbs. Besides, the “best” advice changes—and only sometimes because doctors have finally figured things out. Allergies to peanuts quadrupled as parents were advised not to feed them to young children.

It’s true that some grandparents don’t know the latest advice to keep a baby’s sleeping area free of stuffed animals and blankets to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. What grandparents do know, something many parents forget, is that putting a teddy bear in a crib isn’t daredevil behavior. “You’re talking about a minute fraction of risk,” says Hara Marano, author of “A Nation of Wimps” and a grandma. “The point is that no risk seems to be acceptable.”

A few years ago I met a delightful grandmother who was helping her daughter find a nanny. I suggested the one who’d helped raise my sons. “She’s smart, warm, incredibly caring—” The grandma cut me off. “How long since she has taken care of an infant?” About five years, I said. The grandma sighed: “Sorry, no. My daughter only wants someone with recent experience, because so much has changed.” We both raised our eyebrows and left it at that.

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About the Author: Lenore Skenazy

Ms. Skenazy is founder of Free-Range Kids and a contributor at Reason.com.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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