Misguided Grandparents: The need to brush up on child safety - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Misguided Grandparents: The need to brush up on child safety


Betty Boyko loves babysitting her grandchildren a couple days a week while their parents work. She admits times have changed since she raised her children, and so have many of the rules.

"For instance, they said 'Um, the baby goes on her back. She doesn't sleep on her stomach,'" said Boyko. "My children slept on their stomach."

Boyko knows that rule now, but a lot of grandparents don't. In fact, a recent survey of grandparent caregivers in Birmingham found that many of them aren't aware of newer safety guidelines for kids involving sleep safety, car seats and walker use. Dr. Kyran Quinlan with the American Academy of Pediatrics said it's important for grandparents to get up to speed.

"There is new knowledge about what is safest for young kids and grandparents who regularly care for kids will need to learn about these things to do the best job," said Quinlan.

There is a lot of re-learning to do, starting with keeping the baby safe while sleeping. One-third of grandparents surveyed said they would place a baby on its stomach. That's now considered risky, based on SIDS research. About half weren't aware of this crib change.

"No bumper pads," said Dr. Pippa Abston, a pediatrician at the UAB Pediatric Clinic in Huntsville. "No sleep positioners. No blankets anymore. So we used to do the swaddling and 'Nope. No more blankets.'"

Also, no more forward facing children in cars or trucks until they're two years old; that's what the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends. State law said one year.

And no more walkers - 75 percent of grandparents thought it was okay for babies to use walkers. Experts suggest using activity centers instead. It's a lot to comprehend.

"It takes a little adjusting, even for us," said Abston. "I can just imagine for grandparents who were told 'This is the right way to do it.' And all of a sudden, we're saying 'No. It's not right anymore.' "

Nancy Cowles, the Executive Director with Kids in Danger points out another no-no - using old baby gear on this new generation.

"One of the first things a grandparent might do when they learn they're about to become a grandparent is think that now's the time to bring down the crib that their child slept in," said Cowles.  "Toys they may have been in the attic, and we would certainly urge grandparents to stop before they do that. Older model cribs are simply not going to be safe."

That study only dealt with grandparents, but Dr. Abston said she sees enough moms and dads who could use some brushing up, which is why she recommends bringing everyone in for a child's check--up.

"That gives us a chance to educate everybody in the family, get everyone on the same page," said Abston.

And no matter who's at that check-up, she said to make sure you ask questions.

"If the doctor said your baby should sleep on the back and you're thinking in the back of your mind, 'Well, I'm not going to do that because he sleeps better' or 'I'm afraid he'll choke,' ask the doctor why," said Abston. "'Why is that? Why are you telling me that?' Don't just go away thinking 'Well, they say that, but I'm not going to do it.' " 

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