According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 32.7 million American children in child care arrangements, 27 percent are looked after by relatives. Of those relatives, nearly 1.8 million — one in five — is a grandparent.
That’s partly why Toni Howard, RN, who coordinates childbirth and baby-care education at Ascension Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph, added a grandparenting class to the offerings being taught in Wichita.
“In today’s economy you have two working parents and, with the rising cost of day care, usually either grandma retires or is already at home and is available to keep grandbaby,” says Howard. “But since she raised children, everything has changed.”
The session provides grandparents with the most recent safety information. It includes a hands-on overview of infant CPR, safe sleep and car seat safety.
“This class is valuable for grandparenting and for giving support to new parents,” says Howard, who also is a lactation consultant with the Breastfeeding Clinic in Via Christi NewLife Center. “Sometimes it’s hard for a son or daughter to tell their parents what to do, so this class does it for them.”
Ulf Moe and his wife Gail, of Wichita, signed up for the monthly class in preparation for their first grandchild.
“So many things have changed over the years since we raised our two kids,” he says. “It was valuable to learn how to hold, wrap and comfort the baby. And I didn’t know about the child seat restraints or the CPR. That was especially helpful.”
Tina Smades, of Andover, a proud grandmother of three boys, appreciates having had the opportunity to refresh her baby-care knowledge and practice her skills.
“I’m a firm believer in respecting your children’s wishes as parents and doing things the way they want them done,” Tina says. “There are so many new and easier ways to do things. You have to be willing to change and adapt if you want to be entrusted with your grandchildren.”
Safety is the cornerstone of the class, Howard says.
“You don’t want to be responsible for an accident that could have been prevented,” she tells class participants. “Knowledge is power, so empower yourself.”
Playing it safe
Here are some of the specific safety guidelines that may have changed since new grandparents raised their own children:
- Car seats: Always buckle the baby in a rear-facing car seat with a fivepoint harness restraint that’s properly installed in the back seat. Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Don’t buy secondhand, cautions Howard, and take a car seat safety class.
- Infant CPR: Be prepared to perform CPR should an emergency arise. Take an instructional class. “Twenty years ago when a child was choking, people would raise their arms,” says Howard, about outdated practices. “That just causes them to take a breath and lodge the item down farther instead of expelling and passing it.”
- Safe sleep: Think ABC: Babies should sleep alone, on their backs, in a crib. It’s unsafe to put an infant to sleep on her tummy or side. Don’t put blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or bumpers in the crib. Don’t nap with the baby in bed or on a sofa.
- Breastfeeding: If mom is breastfeeding, it’s crucial to support her efforts and not hinder her ability to maintain her milk supply, says Howard. “We no longer offer bites of foods like mashed potatoes at two weeks, or cut holes in bottle nipples and put cereal in so baby sleeps longer,” she says. “Offering solid foods too soon is also linked to allergies.”