First Time Gran: What’s Changed Since I Had a Baby?

Editor’s note: At a recent office brainstorming session at AARP, we discovered one of us (Nancy) is soon to become a grandmother for the first time. We mothers of young children (Carol and Liz) are thrilled for her, and honestly, a bit blown away by all her questions! Her quandaries seemed like ones we had just dealt with yesterday-(and with Liz, mother of a 2 year-old and 9 monther, they probably were). We had plenty of advice to offer, and at the risk of completely derailing future meetings, we decided to take our questions and answers to the AARP blog-and hope that other Grans will chime in offer advice from their own experiences. Carol, mother of a 5- and 7-year old, takes Question #1.

 Nancy: When an email came through from my son on Friday with the word grandson in the subject line, I threw my coat on the floor trying to get my glasses out of the pocket as I kept panting, “I think he’s here! I think he’s here!”  He wasn’t, but now I know approximately how unglued I will become when I get the real word.  Meanwhile, though, I have enough questions to fill the kind of scroll in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

What do I need to know that’s changed in the last 30 years so the new parents will eventually trust me with this baby, this boy, this gift?  All I know is “back to sleep,” no crib bumpers, no blankets, no toys in the crib and don’t buy used cribs or car seats.  What lack of knowledge will make me look like an inept grandmother and how do I avoid that?

 Carol: Gran Nan, I must say – you know quite a bit! Plus, the soon-to-be parents are likely so overwhelmed with the complete body blow they are about to receive they may not be so focused on all the Dos and Don’ts of Modern Parenthood. However, a few pointers to keep in mind:

*Doctors recommend, overwhelmingly, breastfeeding-not necessarily “the thing” when Generation X was born! A whole industry has sprung up around breastfeeding; lactation consultants and other medical professionals are available should your daughter-in-law need assistance (and/or break down in complete frustration). Should she need help, you could offer to buy her nursing pads, soothing cream, a hand pump, a maternity bra, or a simple jog bra, perhaps, to show that you’re thinking this often-difficult process through.

*To help prevent SIDS, same-room sleeping is encouraged, though not same-bed sleeping (though Lord knows this is often the easiest option).

*Tummy time is a big yes these days (though some babies, such as my own, hated it). It fosters development and decreases the likelihood of flat heads.

*Pacifiers are on the OK list -  but no bottles in bed.

*Foods not recommended for year one: eggs, cow’s milk, honey, peanuts.

I’d also recommend using language such as “I understand that now doctors are recommending …. Is that what you’ve learned?” in order to give the parents an opportunity to express their desires, but also the reminder that there’s one sharp granny on the lookout for Precious Baby.

Follow First Time Gran as we await the birth of The Precious One. We’re sure Gran Nan will have more questions.