Feeding babies: What grandparents need to know
BY IRV KATZ AND JAIA LENT
Grandkids are a joy and the thrill is never greater than the first couple of years when they are learning everything for the first time, especially how incredibly wonderful grandparents are! Yet, whether Grandma and Grandpa live near or far, we cannot forget the influence we have over the young people who have brought these munchkins into the world and the influence we can still have on them.
But as for parenting practices, especially with tiny infants, it seems like everything has changed, right? Who knew about having babies sleep on their backs or avoiding bumper pads when today’s grandparents were young parents themselves?
Feeding babies remains the same in some ways, i.e., breastfeeding is ideal if circumstances allow it, but there are circumstances where that is not an option. In those cases, it is important to understand safety considerations and the best ways to use formula.
Consider the estimated 2.6 million grandparents raising grandchildren because the children’s parents cannot. Imagine thinking that feeding babies was in the rearview mirror and suddenly you find yourself worrying about the expense and complexity of getting your grandchild the right formula. As you can see from the numbers, that is not an entirely uncommon occurrence.
“…there are some unsafe practices out there relative to the use of formula, from buying breast milk or formula…”
The Infant Nutrition Council of America (INCA) tells us that there are some unsafe practices out there relative to the use of formula, from buying breast milk or formula “on the street” (rather than from a reputable supplier) to homemade infant formula. A recent INCA study found that health professionals and government are primary sources of information on infant feeding for parents and caregivers, but the study also found that caregivers want government to provide “easy-to-understand, science-based information and resources that go beyond breastfeeding.” (Here are links to the study and implications for grandparents raising grandchildren: 2019 Infant Feeding Survey Report; 2019 Infant Feeding Survey Infographic)
So, what can grandparents do? Here are a few suggestions.
- Arm yourself with information. Check out the links above. Also, Women Infants and Children (WIC) is a Federal-local program provides useful information and infant nutrition and other resources to those who qualify (https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic).
- If you are a grandparent or other relative caregiver raising or providing extended care for children, seek out resources in your community at grandfactsheets.org ; and look for sites, blogs and support groups where grandparents and other caregivers learn from one another.
- Talk with the child’s parents. Ask what they are doing about infant formula and tell them that you had seen this article about safety concerns and feeding babies. They may well be on top of the subject. If not, share what you have learned and support them in connecting with useful information and resources.
Whether you are raising a grandchild (or other infant relative) or any caring grandparent, you can demonstrate that you are a concerned and informed parent and grandparent by asking about baby’s feeding regime and sharing this critical information.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Irv Katz is Senior Fellow at Generations United (and a grandfather)
Jaia Lent is Deputy Executive Director of Generations United, a national organization dedicated to improving lives. Home to the National Center on Grandfamilies, Generations United is a leading voice for issues affecting families headed by grandparents or other relatives.