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New grandparents should brush up on baby-care practices, survey finds

When my son was a few days old, my mom peeked into his bassinet and said "I see you've got him sleeping on his back."

My baby-boomer mother was part of a generation of babies who slept on their tummies. By the time I was born in the 1970s, medical wisdom had changed, and our family doctor told Mom I should sleep on my side. "We put a rolled-up towel behind you to keep you from flopping over," Mom said, contemplating her sleeping grandson, who looked in his swaddled state like a large flannel burrito.

"It's because of SIDS risk," I said. "Studies have found that the risk is lower if babies sleep on their backs."

It turned out that my mom, an eager new grandma, already knew all about "Back to Sleep." She just wanted a conversational opener to tell me that she realized some things about being a mom had changed since my sister and I were infants.

New research presented over the weekend at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting in New Orleans reminds me how lucky I am that my mom was aware of and willing to discuss new infant-care practices. A survey of 49 grandparent-caregivers' knowledge found that many grandparents had not caught up on new recommendations: 55 percent thought infants should sleep on their stomach or side; 49 percent did not realize that soft toys, crib bumpers and blankets are no longer considered OK for infants' cribs; and almost three-quarters did not know walkers are no longer considered safe, for instance.

Although this survey from the University of Alabama at Birmingham was small, its results are nevertheless a good reminder that new parents need to be willing to have frank discussions with grandparents and other potential caregivers about safe infant-care techniques. Another option is to ask grandparents-to-be to attend a class at a local hospital to help them catch up on what's changed since they had babies of their own.

And, of course, grandparents are invaluable resources for advice on the many aspects of baby care that don't change. My son was a champion spitter-upper, and I'm grateful that my mom was around to demonstrate the baby-burping techniques she had learned from my grandma, who had, in turn, gotten lessons from my great-grandma many years ago.

Previously: Bye, bye bumpers: APA says empty cribs are safest for infants, Study may explain why “Back to Sleep” prevents SIDS and Precious cargo: Keeping kids safe in cars and planes
Photo by nicodeemus1

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