Multigenerational Safety: Grandparents as Caregivers

The number of American grandparents who care for grandchildren is on the rise, with as many as 25% of children solely cared for by the elder generation in some states, according the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). At the same time, a 2017 study from the Pediatric Academic Society found that many grandparents use child care practices they used with their own children, which may be outdated and unsafe. Additionally, they may not be aware of recent changes in child safety standards for cribs and other equipment.

In honor of National Grandparents Day in September, here are some child care guidelines that have changed since today’s grandparents were children:

Safe sleeping. If you are now a grandparent, chances are you were put in your crib to sleep facedown, had crib bumpers to protect your little head from hard surfaces and were covered with blankets. Today, doctors recommend placing babies faceup for sleeping to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, since 2011, new federal safety standards have prohibited the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs — which have been associated with strangulation and suffocation — and required new cribs to have stronger slats and mattress supports, and better quality hardware. The use of bumpers, blankets and stuffed animals in cribs, which have also been linked to suffocation, are now discouraged. Don’t use an old crib. Instead, use a play yard (similar to a playpen) for overnight visits.

Safe car seats. Child car safety seats, correctly sized and used, can reduce the risk of a car accident-related death by as much as 71 percent. That’s the good news. The bad news is that as many as three out of four car seats are incorrectly installed — or not used. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined guidelines for child car seat safety. Rear-facing car seats are required for children under the age of 1, or longer if necessary based on height or weight. Children will then transition to a forward-facing car safety seat that lists height or weight limits. And because research has found that safety seats reduce the risk of injury past early childhood, children use safety seats longer than ever. State laws now usually require kids under 4’9” or weighing less than 80 pounds to use a booster seat. More information on proper use and installation of car safety seats can be found here.

Safe feeding. Pediatricians now recommend avoiding feeding babies certain foods before the age of 1. These include honey (which can cause botulism in babies, but not in older children), cow’s milk, nuts, peanut butter, strawberries, egg whites, shellfish, wheat and citrus fruits, which may cause allergic reactions. It is recommended that babies start solid food between 4 and 6 months. For older babies, toddlers and preschoolers, chop solid foods like grapes, carrots, hot dogs, and cooked meat into pea-sized pieces or shred small enough to prevent choking. Do not feed little ones soft, sticky foods like marshmallows or jelly beans, which can get stuck in a child’s throat. Other choking hazards include hard, small foods like nuts, popcorn, whole grapes, raw vegetables, raisins, candies, dried fruits and seeds. Any food for a baby should be cooked until soft.


Grandparents can stay up to date on childproofing and having a safer home for when little ones visit. Learn more here.

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