Grandma gets schooled

Stuffies may be banned from the crib, but that doesn’t mean your grandchild can’t have some! Photo by Simon Rayment.
Stuffies may be banned from the crib, but that doesn’t mean your grandchild can’t have some! Photo by Simon Rayment.

News flash for expectant grandparents – most of what you took as gospel in baby care doesn’t apply anymore. If you don’t want to be that grandparent who endlessly defends old-school practices to your son or daughter with, “well you survived, didn’t you?” consider signing up for the grandparents’ course offered monthly by the DAN Women & Babies Program at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Learn what’s different and why

My last baby was born 33 years ago. Now he and his wife have just had their first. And full disclosure, I’m not new to grandparenting – I have two charming grandgirls from my eldest son. But as a mother-in-law, I try to step lightly and not ask too many questions. I signed up for the grandparents’ course scheduled for March.

Then came COVID-19. By April, Sunnybrook had transitioned all pre-natal courses, including the one for grandparents, to run online. Over three hours, Patient Educator Leslie Chandler provided us with an overview of how and why the hospital experience and newborn care have changed, along with a timely update of COVID-19 protocols.

Changes thanks to the pandemic

Leslie, who has been a childbirth educator for 30 years, reviewed how the birth experience has evolved, including shortened hospital stays and midwife care. Because of COVID-19, only one other person can be there during labour and delivery and he or she must be symptom-free. Visitors are prohibited. As a result, all of the grandparents in my course were resigned to meeting this grandchild on their smartphone.

Evidence-based practices

Leslie explained what’s new in baby care and the science behind it. Take sleeping, for example. Swaddling is discouraged and babies now sleep in a sack on their back, blankets, toys and pillows are banned from the crib, and in the early weeks and months it’s a good idea for babies to sleep in the same room as their parents. All these practices are thought to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. No one was arguing against that.

Virtual support also available

According to Leslie, post-natal support at Sunnybrook is being provided remotely, and the Breastfeeding Clinic is accessible by phone or online. Virtual classes and clinics could be with us for some time and, as Leslie points out, they aren’t always optimal. “People like to connect with others, share their thoughts and hear what others are thinking. This doesn’t always happen online.” And she reminded us that our kids may turn to the internet for advice and the importance of consulting reliable, evidence-based sources.

One question to ask

Knowing what has changed in baby care and understanding the science behind it will help make us the supportive grandparents our kids and grandkids really need. New parents are still exhausted and often overwhelmed, especially in those first few weeks. If there is one question I plan to always ask, and ask often, it’s “How can I help?”

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About Holly Reid 49 Articles
Holly Reid is a recreational road rider and cycling commuter. An advocate for safe cycling, she is a member of Cycle Don Valley Midtown, Cycle Toronto’s advocacy group for Wards 15/16.