What Every Grandparent Should Know about What Every Grandparent Should Know about Child SafetyChild Safety

As more US children live with their grandparents and multi-generation households grow in number, grandparents are responsible for a lot of childcare. That care includes keeping up with the latest child safety recommendations. For adults who raised their babies when medical advice included putting baby to sleep face down and starting solids at two or three months, here are some updates and refreshers on child safety.

Safe sleep practices

This is the area where doctors’ recommendations are most different from a generation ago, when they recommended that parents put babies to sleep face down and use padded bumpers to protect them from hard crib bars.

Now pediatricians say babies should sleep on their backs, face up, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The sleep space should be free of anything soft that babies might press their faces into while they sleep, including crib bumpers, plush toys, and blankets.

Cribs have undergone major changes, too. In 2011, the federal government banned the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs after millions of the old-style models were recalled due to infant deaths. As tempting – and sentimental – as it may be to pull an old crib out of the attic for your grandchild, it’s not safe. A new crib, even a budget model, is safer than an older crib. You can find complete details on crib safety and shopping from Consumer Reports.

Feeding safety

Pediatricians recommend that babies start solid food between 4 and 6 months, and there are some foods they recommend waiting until the first birthday to introduce, including honey (which can cause botulism in babies), cow milk, nuts, peanut butter, and citrus fruits.

For older babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, slice solid foods like grapes, carrots, hot dogs, and cooked meat small enough to prevent choking.

If your grandchildren have food allergies or celiac disease, follow their doctor’s and parents’ feeding instructions to the letter. Carefully read ingredient labels on processed foods and know what to do if your grandchild has an allergic reaction. Call your adult child or your grandchild’s pediatrician if you have questions.

Car safety

Few aspects of child safety cause more confusion than proper car seat installation and use. Safe Kids Worldwide says that more than 70% of child safety seats are installed incorrectly. That puts the smallest passengers at needless risk in a crash. You can use this checklist to ensure that your grandkids are riding safely. You can also use the Parents Central car seat inspection finder tool for local experts to help you install the seat properly.

Don’t be surprised if your “strapping” 65-pound grandchild still uses a booster seat. State laws today generally require kids under 4’9” or weighing less than 80 pounds to use a one. A booster seat positions the shoulder belt safely for better protection in case of a crash.

More safety tips

Some safety tips haven’t changed over the years. Keep medications, cleaning fluids, matches, and other dangerous items out of the reach of curious toddlers and children. Cover electrical outlets and block access to your garage, pool, and yard unless you are there to supervise directly. As our own children grow up, it’s easy to forget how busy and determined little ones can be. By taking these steps, you’re giving your grandkids the gift of time with you and a safer place to grow and play.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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