My parents and my husband’s parents had their children in the 70’s; back in the time of rampant reckless endangerment of children. Children were not being strapped into seatbelts; they were riding in the back of pickup trucks, drinking rice in bottles and sleeping on their stomachs. They were the days of glass bottles, no safety gates and walkers that tipped over regularly. Our parents let us ride our bikes in the streets, for God’s sake. I shudder to think of it.
A growing number of grandparents are raising or providing regular care for their grandchildren. A study presented recently at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference confirms what I’ve already known from seven years of experience in trying to keep my children safe: that grandparents may not be as informed as they need to be when it comes to safety.
Nobody likes to correct his or her own parents. It gets even more dicey when you try to correct your mother-in-law on the proper way to hold a baby when feeding a bottle. Expect a response like, “I raised two children, I think I know what I am doing,” and scowls. Nothing makes someone over sixty give you a dirty look faster than trying to correct them on how to handle small children. It’s a personal affront to their parenting skills. But sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and talk to them about your reservations.
Sure, grandparents have years of child-rearing experience, but most are relying on old data and unintentionally putting their grandkids’ health and safety at risk. But intentional or not, if your kid gets hurt, it’s too late to decide to go over the latest safety information in child rearing with your parents. Have the talk before someone gets hurt.
I don’t call my mom after every pediatric appointment and update her on the latest advancements in child safety, but when the girls were smaller, I made sure that she knew before I ever left them in her care what I expected from her as a caregiver. I was afraid of hurting her feelings, but I was more afraid of coming home and my child being hurt or dead.
Grandparents who don’t live in the same city as their grandchildren or only see their grandkids on special occasions don’t usually have their houses childproofed. Why would they? I remember going home for Christmas and putting up gates, covering stove knobs, inserting safety plugs, and putting all potential threats out of reach. I’m sure my mom thought I was crazy, but I was following safety guidelines for today’s toddler.
Researchers surveyed three grandparent support groups with 49 total participants in the Birmingham, Alabama metro area. All of the grandparents in the survey were caregivers for their grandchildren. They were given a 15-question survey about safety for kids of all ages and most of them failed my personal stringent safety training qualifications.
When asked what should be in a crib with the baby, 49 percent of those surveyed said bumpers, stuffed animals, and blankets were OK. Only 26.5 percent answered correctly: just a mattress with a sheet.
When asked what the best position is for a baby to sleep in, 33 percent said the stomach, 23 percent chose the side, and 43.8 percent chose the back. That’s one-third of grandparents who think putting babies to sleep on their stomachs is okay.
You know who puts kids on their stomachs to sleep? People who raised kids in the 70’s. Babies don’t particularly like flailing on their backs, so teach your parents how to make a baby burrito before they put them on their stomachs in a crib full of bumpers and stuffed toys.
They have the best intentions and a heart full of love like only a grandparent can, but it’s our responsibility to make sure they have all the latest information on safety for our children.
Do you make sure to keep your parents up-to-date on the latest child safety information?