When you find out your child is expecting a baby, it can be both thrilling and a little nerve-racking. This is a big change. As your child becomes a parent, they will take on responsibilities they may not be ready for and it can be hard to let them make their own mistakes. It can also be hard to recognize that a lot has changed since you were a new parent. You may think you know how to care for an infant, but new approaches can be very different from old ones. Finally, your child’s partner may have strong opinions and it’s important not to come between your child and his or her partner.
Breastfeeding or Bottle-feeding
Years ago, we put cereal in bottles and fed babies solid food at four months old. These days, we encourage mothers to breastfeed for four to six months before introducing solid food. We also encourage mothers to breastfeed for another six months while the baby gets used to solid food. However, sometimes it’s hard to follow every bit of good advice we receive, and I say following some of it is better than following none of it. New parents need to figure out whether they want to breastfeed, bottle-feed or a combination of the two. Although you may have strong feelings about the benefits of breastfeeding (and scientific studies back you up 100 percent), ultimately, the new mother gets to decide. Getting into an argument with her about breastfeeding will only cause hard feelings.
Another area science has evolved is with car seats. As car seats become safer, they also become less convenient. When I was raising babies, you simply pulled the seatbelt through the back of the car seat and off you went. Now, car seats come with bases that remain in the car, and you unhook the seat from its base. This is fine unless Grandma wants to drive the baby somewhere, because it takes a team of engineers to remove the base from one car and put it in another. I love how well the new seats protect babies, but if you are a new grandparent, I recommend buying your own car seat if you can, rather than struggling with transferring the base back and forth.
These days, some new parents like to do gender reveal parties when they find out the sex of the baby or announce the birth in a certain way. If you post information on your social media feed that lets the cat out of the bag early, it ruins their plans and possibly your relationship. Also, they may want more privacy than you realize. Check in about what kind of information to share and the timing of posts, so everyone’s comfortable.
Speaking of making people comfortable, the question of whether to vaccinate can make people very uncomfortable. Thankfully, most people vaccinate their babies against the deadly illnesses that used to bring tragedy and loss to so many families. As a pediatric nurse, I’ve administered vaccines for decades and the worst reaction I’ve ever seen is some localized swelling. I’m not saying vaccines are risk-free, I am saying the almost non-existent risks are worth the huge benefits, in my opinion. However, you may be surprised to know that my son wasn’t sure about vaccinating his baby. We had a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons, and together we debunked some of the fear-mongering websites that were giving him pause. I respected his desire to make sure vaccines were safe before having his precious baby receive the shots.
Finally, nothing brings out cultural traditions like having a baby. Young couples who haven’t given a moment’s thought to how they were raised may now be consumed by how to recreate all their favorite childhood traditions. They’ll think more about how they celebrate holidays, what type of spiritual tradition fits best, and even what language should be spoken at home. This can be a fun way to connect, to share your heritage and memories.
Basically, when it comes to being a grandparent, it’s important to remember that parents are in the driver’s seat. We all figured it out. They will too.
Kelly Keath is a pediatric LVN at MCHC Health Centers—a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.