Tips for new and expecting grandparents

Grandparents holding an infant

Being a grandparent is one of the most rewarding relationships. But it’s not without its up and downs. Now that we have raised our children, it’s time to let them raise their own. This means listening and deferring to their rules as parents.

Still it’s helpful to stay up on the latest dos and don’ts for newborns, like that related to safe sleep practices. When it comes to safe sleep, know your ‘ABCs.’ Here’s what it stands for:

  • A: Sleep alone. Keep blankets, stuffed animals and pillows out of the crib.
  • B: Sleep on their back. Having babies sleep on their backs is probably the most difficult because most of us grandparents remember our babies sleeping very nicely on their bellies or side. However, studies have shown that babies on their back are in the safest position.
  • C: Sleep in a suitable crib or bassinet. Babies should sleep in the parent’s room but in their own space (crib or bassinet).

It’s also important to know that it’s easy to overheat a baby, so keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. Dress the baby in comfortable clothing, similar to what you might wear.

A few other updates and changes since you were in charge:

  • Many new moms choose to breastfeed their little ones. Breastfeeding may not have been your choice when you had children, but there are tremendous benefits for mom and baby.
  • Bathing babies is no longer a daily occurrence, especially for newborns. One to two times a week will suffice for a bath.
  • Babies do not need quiet to sleep. In fact it’s better that you keep up the daily activity in your home so they will get used to the noise.
  • Baby powder is no longer recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that babies can inhale particles from the powder and cause damage to their lungs.
  • Sterilizing bottles in boiling water is not necessary. Newer baby bottles are dishwasher safe, and   there are also sterilization bags that can be used in a microwave.
  • A cold bottle or room temperature milk/formula is okay, if the baby prefers it that way. If you want to warm the bottle, place the bottle in a container with warm, not hot, water.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that new grandbabies—and their parents—need our love. Be supportive of new parents by helping them with what they need. Drop off a meal or offer to sit with the baby so parents can catch a quick nap between feedings. Take the older brother or sister to the park to play for an hour. Best of all, encourage new parents and let them know they can always reach out to you.


Debbie Wasem is supervisor of Women’s Education at AAMC.

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