10 Tips for Caring for Your Newborn Grandchild

By on March 1, 2013
grandma with newborn in arms

By Amanda Carlson –

When you have your first grandchild it can be a humbling experience. You remember when your children were that tiny and helpless, and now they have a child of their own. Thankfully you have not forgotten what it was like to raise them, but being a grandparent is very different from being a parent. For one thing, the baby’s parents might have some different ideas on how to raise their child. However if it is your privilege to take care of your newborn grandchild, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  1. Listen to the parents – I know it is hard to listen when your kids try to tell you how to do your job, but they are trusting you with the thing they love the most. Try to respect their wishes and really listen to what they have to say. Maybe they let the baby sleep longer than you would or maybe they do not want certain things around their child. You may think they are being foolish and overprotective, but that is not your call anymore. The baby is theirs and they have the right to say what goes. Listen to them and try to do what they ask you to. If there is a big issue, bring it up right away. Maybe you can work out a compromise or come up with an alternative.
  2. Know what to do in an emergency – The thing that scares me the most about newborns is how fragile they are. They are so tiny and dependent on you for every little thing. Even a small problem can turn into an emergency in a heartbeat. If something bad should happen, you want to be prepared. Have the number for the pediatrician ready and know what medications or illnesses the baby has, if any. If the baby has allergies or issues you should write it down in case there is a problem. Do not rely on your memory. You will go blank in an emergency and then things will get even worse. Have the parent’s numbers on speed dial and know the quickest route to the hospital just in case. Hopefully nothing will happen, but if something should you want to be prepared.
  3. Read up on the basics –After so many years your baby care basics might be a little rusty. Some things never change, but new studies and discoveries about children are always coming out. Before the baby is even born you should pick up a new, reliable book on infant care and what to expect. Some things have undoubtedly changed but other things will be a flash from the past. It is always good to have a reference guide, just in case though. Things like sleeping positions have changed as the years have gone by, so make sure you are on top of things.
  4. Keep things clean –I know this may seem like a no brainer, but newborn immune systems are not fully formed yet and they are very susceptible to diseases and illnesses of all kinds. When you are caring for your newborn grandchild, keep your hands washed constantly. Also make sure wherever you lay her is clean and free of dust and other allergens. Many times we forget as we get older how easy it is for babies to get sick. If you have just returned from the hospital or doctor’s office (as we often are) make sure you wash your hands and face very well and change clothes before you touch the baby. There are so many germs in a hospital that it is not even funny. Pacifiers, bottles, toys and so on should also be cleaned and sanitized regularly, even if the baby has not used them for a while.
  5. Safety first – If you are planning on taking your grandchild for a walk or even a drive remember safety first. The car seat or stroller you use should be the right size for a newborn and provide head support. Make sure the baby is securely strapped in and in a comfortable position. Also make sure that the car seat is attached correctly. Many fire stations and other local places offer free checks to make sure the car seats have been properly installed.
  6. Clothes are important – When it comes to newborns, warmth is a big issue. They are so small that it is hard for them to keep warm, and yet you do not want to hurt them with blankets and other suffocating dangers. Dress the baby in layers according to the temperature of the environment and make sure none of the clothes are binding or cutting off circulation. I know this makes it a pain to change their diaper, but it keeps baby happy and safe.
  7. Watch pets and other children –Newborns are so helpless that they can’t even call for help. That is why it is so important to watch when there are others around the baby. Cats and dogs can accidentally hurt the baby by scratching or even sitting on him. The animals usually do not know enough to avoid suffocation dangers as well. If possible, confine the animals to a separate room while you are taking care of the baby. If not, keep a good eye on the child and make sure he is somewhere that the animals can’t get to. Other children are also a danger. Many small children do not realize how fragile a baby is and try to pick him up and play with him like he is a doll. They can drop or otherwise hurt the baby doing this. Even siblings should be watched carefully while they handle the child and make sure they are responsible enough to hold the baby properly, supporting his head and neck.
  8. Volume control – As we get older we tend to lose our hearing. We turn up the television, the telephone and talk louder too. However we need to remember how sensitive a baby is to sound, especially new sounds. Keep your voice low and calm to avoid frightening the baby. Try to turn the captioning on the televisions and keep it low. Naptime is especially important to newborns as they sleep the majority of the time. Do your best to modulate the volume in your home to accommodate the little one.
  9. Feeding time – This is a tricky one. While some parents go the formula route, others want only breast milk for their baby. However the parents should supply the food if they will be leaving the newborn in your care for an extended period of time. It is not good for the baby to change diet quickly, so do not try to get your own formula at the store. Some babies also have a preference for one bottle or nipple and will only eat from that. Find out from your children what the baby’s feeding schedule is and what you should do if they get delayed returning.
  10. Make a connection – This is your time to make a one on one connection with your new grandchild. Take the opportunity to talk to the baby and share some stories with him. While the baby may not understand the words, he will love the attention and listening to your voice. You can also read to the baby. Hold the baby often with lots of skin to skin contact. Most babies crave closeness and are less fussy when they are being held. They also form stronger connections with people who hold them. If the baby has issues that prevent you from doing these things, like autism, connect with the baby in whatever way it enjoys. Voices and faces are usually enough to entertain a newborn for hours.

Congratulations, you are a grandparent! Enjoy your new grandbaby!

Amanda Carlson, a blogger as well as a former newborn care nurse contributed this post. To stay connected to her previous career and share the knowledge she gained, she began writing for www.newborncare.com. You can reach her at [email protected]

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