An open letter to new grandparents...

Dear New Grandma or Grandpa,

Congratulations! You have entered into the fabulous and fun world of grandchildren. You get to relive those joyous days of baby cuddles, squishy cheeks, and tiny toes without the pressures and responsibilities of being a new parent.

 Deposit Photo 4770540

Deposit Photo 4770540

But wait! How is it possible that your baby is able to care for a baby? They must need your help and advice because they’ve never done this before.

I’m so glad that you want to help. They do need your help. But before you run in to rescue your grandbaby and take over, there are a few things you need to know. Many advances in medicine and parenting have been made since you were a new parent. That means that what you did as a parent may not be considered correct or even safe. Yes, your child survived into adulthood even though you did things “wrong”, but we have learned so much that can make life better for our children and their children.

 Deposit Photo 4763841

Deposit Photo 4763841

Check your perspective. Your child is the parent, not you. They make the rules and you follow them. They have the final say in how to parent your grandchild. This is a major paradigm shift in your relationship with your adult child and it can take some getting used to your new position. Will mistakes be made? Yes. Should you step in? Maybe. Unless imminent physical harm is about to come to the baby, step back and take a breath.

To help you help them, let me bring you up to date on current practices.

At the hospital.

Resist the urge to run in and scoop up the baby right after birth. The first hour of outside the womb is a critical period of mother/child bonding.  The new mother needs to touch, stroke and smell her baby. These simple actions will help her mothering instincts to grow and will increase the likelihood and success of breastfeeding.  A great resource for more information on what happens in the first hour of life is here from Raylene Phillips, MD, IBCLC, FAAP.

We have also learned more about the relationship between a baby and what is known as the “microbiome”. As the baby grows in utero, they are seeded with trillions of microscopic organisms that they receive from mom, dad, and anyone living in the house.  Once the baby is born, their body recognizes the microorganisms from those people as “safe”.  The introduction of a new microbiome from new people can upset the internal balance and put the baby’s body under stress. It would be best for you, the grandparents to wait until the mother is ready for you to hold the baby. The mom should be the only one to hold the baby for the first hour. For more information, read these articles from Penny Simkin  and Anne Estes

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Deposit Photo 8047506

At Home.

It is impossible to spoil a newborn by holding them too much, so encourage the new parent to hold and cuddle the baby for as long and as often as they wish. Babies want to be held. They need to be held. Being held by a loving caregiver calms the baby. Being held lowers stress and cortisol levels. The skin-to-skin contact is their happy place. This article from Psychology Today further explains the importance of holding the baby. Holding and playing with a newborn helps with their brain and social development.(1)   

No bottles mean no bottles. I know you want to help the new mom get more sleep by sneaking in a bottle of formula. That one bottle can upset the delicate balance of breastfeeding success. Current World Health Organization breastfeeding guidelines state that no bottle or pacifier should be introduced before 4 weeks of age.(2) Once breastfeeding is well established and if the parents want to, then a bottle feeding can be introduced.

Solid foods should not be introduced until 4- 6 months of age. That includes rice cereal. The newborn’s gut needs to grow and mature so that it can handle the complexities of solid food.(3)

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Deposit Photo 71445249

Sleep safety.

Babies need to sleep on their backs. This is one step in preventing SIDS or Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID). Their head naturally turns to the side, so they are not going to choke if they spit up.  There should be nothing in the crib with the baby except a firm mattress. That means no bumpers, blankets or toys in the crib or bassinet.(4)  It is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that the newborn should sleep in the same room as the parents. This allows for easy night parenting. The babies feel more secure because they know the parents are there with them.(5)  There are those who believe it is safe to bed-share if:

1.       Babies are being breastfed.

2.       Parents are non-smokers.

3.       Parents are not on any medication, prescribed or not. 

4.       Parents are not intoxicated.

5.       Mattress should be firm and excess blankets and pillows removed.

6.       Parents must have no medical conditions that cause them to sleep deeply. 

 Dr. James McKenna has been at the forefront of this research.(6)

 Deposit Photo 118571454

Deposit Photo 118571454

Car safety.

All babies are to be in rear-facing car seats until they are 1-2 years old, depending on your state’s law.(7)

What can you do?

Help with household duties. Make meals, do the dishes, wash and fold the laundry, or  do some light housekeeping. If you don’t live nearby, hire a postpartum doula as a gift for the new family.  Doula Match can help

 Entertain any siblings so the new parents can bond with the baby.

If you are coming from out of town, don’t expect to be entertained or go sightseeing with the new family. Make plans to do activities on your own. If space is limited, stay at a nearby hotel.

 Be supportive and encouraging. Offer a shoulder to cry on, a neck massage, and a listening ear. Avoid giving advice unless you are asked. 

Hold the baby when the parents need a break. 

 Enjoy this precious time!

 Deposit Photo 4816031

Deposit Photo 4816031

WRAP 'EM UP!

READ ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM TO LEARN HOW TO ENTER THE SWADDLE GIVE-AWAY!

Swaddling – should you?  Is it worth the effort?  And which swaddle blanket do you use? With so many to choose from, it can be difficult to decide.

In my work as a postpartum doula and infant sleep consultant, I have seen the value of swaddling too many times to count. Newborns have an immature nervous system with involuntary movements and jerking that can startle a sleeping baby awake or make it difficult for them to settle themselves to sleep. Swaddling is a useful tool for parents to comfort the colicky baby who has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Swaddling mimics the tightness and comfort of your baby’s first home – the uterus. Dr. Harvey Karp in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, says, ”swaddling is the cornerstone of calming, the essential first step in soothing your fussy baby and keeping him soothed.” (p. 94-95). For most babies, swaddling by itself won’t stop the fussing. It is the foundation or the starting point of calming a baby. That means that if you swaddle your baby and they continue to cry and fuss, it doesn’t mean the baby doesn’t like the swaddle, they just need more help and support.

 What about safety? Swaddling is safe when you follow a few simple rules.

1.       Babies must sleep on their back.

2.       Keep the hips loosely swaddled. This is to prevent hip dysplasia.

3.       Swaddle the upper body firmly, but not so tight that it restricts breathing.

4.       Use swaddling only for sleep. Your baby needs their hands-free to play and explore during playtime, and mom and              baby need to be skin to skin for breastfeeding.

5.       Stop swaddling once the baby is rolling over.

6.    Check for overheating. If the baby is sweating around the neck, remove one layer of clothing. Room temperature should        be between 68-72 degrees.

For more information on safe sleep, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthychildren.org.

But which one? Let me help you decide. I have used different swaddlers in different situations and I have my favorites.  If you want to use a blanket, Swaddle Designs has generously sized blankets that are big enough to get a nice proper swaddle. Aden And Anais have a wonderful lightweight muslin blanket that is nice for warmer summer days.

 Swaddle Designs

Swaddle Designs

 If the thought of trying to figure out how to swaddle with a blanket has you wrapped up in knots, a swaddle sack may be just what you are looking for.  For newborns, parents love the Woombie and many feel it's the best baby swaddle. The Woombie is a stretchy sack with a variety of options for you and your baby.  The material provides just enough pressure for comfort but allows for the baby to have their hands up instead of straight down and isn't sug around the hips. As your baby grows, they have a sack with flaps that open so her arms can be out. It’s also easy to use. You put the baby in and zip it up. Another popular option for an older baby, is the  Halo Sleep Sack. It combines the ease of zipper and Velcro and allows for the arms to be out as your baby grows.

 The Woombie

The Woombie

What about the baby that is getting ready to roll over but still needs the sensory comfort of the swaddle? Try the Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit.  This is a thick suit that prevents your baby from startling themselves awake. Once your baby is rolling over, move on to the Zipadeezip. They have sleep sacks that fit up to a 2 year old.

 Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit

Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit

 Zipadeezip

Zipadeezip

Is swaddling worth the effort? I think so. Your baby thinks so.  Your well rested family will think so. I believe in swaddling so much that I will be giving away not one, not two, but 4 different swaddles to 4 different winners that represent the various options for various stages. The first one will be the Woombie for those newborns.  The second is a swaddle blanket by Swaddle Designs. The third is the Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit for the older infant who is about to transition to rolling over. And the fourth is a Zipadeezip for the older baby. You have two ways to enter. Become an email subscriber. Complete the form on my blog page or my home page, and leave a comment on your favorite swaddle.. You can also “like” my Facebook page and leave a comment about your favorite swaddle blanket. You only need to enter once at each site. Winners will be selected at random from those who subscribe or comment and announced June 1. Good luck!

Let’s hear it for tranquil sleep!

Kathy