grandparents kids webBeing a grandparent can be a fun and rewarding experience. Grandparents have a wealth of knowledge both in education and life experiences that can have a profound effect on their grandchildren’s lives. Unless you are the primary care provider, you may find that being a grandparent offers the fun of parenting without all of the responsibility.

Remember - you are no longer the primary disciplinarian so you can lighten up a bit. But for a healthy relationship with your adult children and their spouses, understand and follow their rules, says Judith E. Meier, BSN, RN, CLC, Coordinator Prenatal Education Programs, St. Luke’s University Health Network. Know their expectations related to your grandchild’s diet, sleep/nap habits, TV viewing and use of electronic devices.

Similarly, you should set your own limits. If you prefer not to be your child’s primary source of day care, please do not feel obligated, she says. If you only want to watch them for a few hours at a time, make that known too. Our adult children often don’t realize that caring for children, particularly babies and toddlers, can be physically challenging for older adults.

“There are things you can do, however, to improve your health so you have more energy to enjoy them now and more time to watch them grow up”, Judy says. “Eat a healthy diet, be active and get plenty of sleep. If you’re overweight try to shed a few pounds. See a doctor regularly and if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, be sure to follow you doctor’s advice regarding the best way to manage your condition. Prior to starting any diet or exercise program, always consult with your family physician to find out what would work best for you and your health.”

“Taking the initiative to stay well will give you more quality years with their children and grandchildren,” she says.

Fun Things You Can Do with Your Grandchildren
Expecting a visit from your grandchildren? “Keep it simple”, advises Judith E. Meier, BSN, RN, CLC, Coordinator Prenatal Education Programs, St. Luke’s University Health Network. “They just enjoy spending time with you,” Judy says. “That’s much more important than anything money can buy.”

Five Fun Activities for Your Grandchild’s Next Visit
1. Get outside.
Weather permitting, get the kids outside. Take a walk, visit a local playground or play in the backyard. If there’s snow, make a snowman, build a snow fort or have a snowball battle. Outdoor play is an excellent way for children to burn off excess energy. Make up games that encourage them to run and jump.
2. Play one of Your Childhood Favorites. Even children accustomed to playing with smartphones and tablets, enjoy the novelty of games we loved as children, such as hopscotch, four square and Simon says.
3. Make believe. Children have amazing imaginations and love to pretend, whether it’s playing dolls or pretending to be their favorite action hero. When the weather’s bad, turn your living room into a fort using sofa cushions and sheets. Hide items throughout your home and make them go on a scavenger hunt.
4. Enjoy a quiet activity together. Children also enjoy quiet activities like putting a puzzle together or coloring, which give you an opportunity to just talk with one another. Share stories about their parents as children and your own childhood.
5. Cooking. Bake cookies, a cake or brownies. If your grandchild’s parents frown on sweets, make sandwiches for lunch, or better yet, dinner for Mom and Dad. Think how proud they would be serving their parents something they made.

What New Grandparents Need to Know
If you’re a grandparent, you’ve already raised one of more children of your own and no doubt that experience will be invaluable when watching your grandchildren. But, let’s face it, your child care skills may have become a little rusty over the past 10, 20 or 30 years. Not only that, but what was considered good practices back then may have changed. Judith E. Meier, BSN, RN, CLC, Coordinator Prenatal Education Programs, St. Luke’s University Health Network, says it’s important for grandparents to educate themselves regarding these changes. Here are some modern practices that might be new to you.

Allow Skin-to-Skin
After delivery today, pediatricians encourage the newborn to be placed skin-to-skin. That means the baby will not have any clothing on, just a diaper, and be placed against mother’s chest to help him/her maintain the body temperature. Babies who are held skin-to-skin after delivery feed earlier and better, and gain weight faster. Skin-to-skin contact helps stabilize the baby’s heart rate and breathing, as well as maintain normal body temperature and blood sugars. It is recommended that babies be held skin-to-skin for two hours or until after the first feeding has taken place. This means that the baby’s weight and height will not be taken until after skin-to-skin is completed. Grandparents will have to wait to hold the baby, which can be hard to do, but remember, it is in the best interest of the baby to keep him/her skin-to-skin.

Encourage Breastfeeding, but Support Mother’s Feeding Choice
Breastfeeding is the best food for babies. Breast milk has immunological properties that help protect the infant from illness/diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages exclusive breastfeeding for at least one year with supplementation of solid foods after six months. If a mother is not interested in breastfeeding, she may pump and give her breast milk via bottle. Regardless of whether the mother breast feeds, pumps or opts for formula, it is important for grandparents to be supportive of the mother’s feeding choice. St. Luke’s offers outpatient lactation support for nursing moms at the St. Luke’s Baby & Me Support Center. Call 484-526-BABY (2229) for an appointment.

Practice “Back to Sleep”
The correct positioning for sleep for infants is on their back place on a firm mattress with fitted sheets. Infants should not be swaddled in a blanket, stuffed animals or toys should not be place in the crib as it can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

No Baby “buntings” or Snow Suits 
Heavy restrictive clothes are not to be used when placing your infant in a car seat. Warm up the car prior to getting into the car. An infant should be dressed in one more layer than an adult would dress themselves. Once the infant is in the car seat, a small blanket can be wrapped around them, being careful not to cover the face. Hat, booties, and mittens can be used to keep them warm. 

Use Car Seats Properly
Car seats have changed greatly over the years. Pennsylvania law requires that all children be in rear facing
car seat at least until the age of two, but studies show that the child should be rear facing for as long as possible. The back of the car seat acts like a shell that protects that child from head, neck, and spinal cord injuries. When purchasing a car seat, read the car seat manufacturer’s instructions as well as the vehicle instruction book. Purchase a car seat with the proper height and weight for the infant and follow the instructions of the seat and the vehicle for proper installation. Be certain the car seat is checked by a certified car seat instructor.
St. Luke’s University Health Network offers car seat safety checkpoints throughout the year. See the hospital’s events calendar for car seat clinics or call 1-800-carbelt for the nearest checkpoint. Be certain that the car seat fits the child’s height and weight and that the car seat and child are in the proper car seat as he/she continues to grow.

Less Frequent Baths
Another change with infants is that babies do not need a bath every day because daily bathing can dry out their skin. You may need to wash the areas of the baby if they are soiled such as the face and bottom on a daily basis, but a bath every three to four days is adequate.

Take Parenting Classes
To help parents and grandparents prepare for their new baby, St. Luke’s University Health Network offers prenatal breastfeeding, newborn and mom care classes, and prepared childbirth classes (formerly known as Lamaze) on a monthly basis. These classes are available both at the St. Luke’s Baby and Me Support Center in Bethlehem and at St. Luke’s Hospital Allentown Campus. St. Luke’s invites all parents and grandparents to attend our classes for the latest information on labor and delivery and in feeding and caring for the newborn.

The St. Luke’s Baby & Me Support Center also offers yoga classes for parents and their babies. Grandparents are also welcome. Interested individuals can sign up for the support groups online or call the St. Luke’s Baby and Me Support Center at 484-526-BABY (2229).

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