Parents and grandparents have always taken care to assure the safety of their children and grandchildren. Sometimes though, recommendations change as to what is and what is not considered to be safe behaviour, so it’s a good idea for grandparents to be sure that they are keeping up to date on the latest trends in child care.
One area in which safety standards have changed dramatically over the years is the manner in which babies are put to sleep.
Back to Bed
Years ago, parents were often instructed to lay their babies down on their tummies to sleep. Research has now proven that this is an unsafe practice and experts recommend that babies are put down on their backs to lessen the risk of cot death.
“Back to bed” is a useful catchphrase that can help grandparents to place their grandbabies into their cots in the safest manner.
Babies should always be placed in the cot on their backs, even after they are old enough to roll over on their own, although they do not need to be repositioned if they turn themselves over and are able to roll both from back to tummy and from tummy to back.
Soft blankets, duvets and pillows may look adorable in the cot, but they are unsafe for babies and increase the risk of both suffocation and cot death.
The same goes for stuffed toys — none of these items belong in the cot. The safest way to make up a cot is with properly fitted sheets and blankets; never try to use bedding designed for larger beds since the excess fabric poses a strangulation risk to babies.
Experts recommend the “feet to foot” method in which you place the sheet and/or blanket only half way up the cot and firmly tucked under the sides of the mattress.
By placing the baby with the feet placed at the foot of the cot and the blanket tucked securely, grandparents can lessen the chance that the baby will wiggle down under the blanket.
Another safe option is to avoid the use of blankets altogether, instead dressing baby in a Grobag or other similar garment, making additional bedding unnecessary.
A generation ago, it was commonly thought that babies should be kept snuggled up and toasty warm to sleep well. We now know that overheating is a risk factor for cot death, so modern parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are advised to place babies to sleep in rooms that are warm, but not overly hot.
Babies shouldn’t be over-bundled and hats are not recommended for sleeping babies since their use interferes with babies’ ability to naturally regulate their temperature through their heads.
Most paediatricians recommend that babies are dressed lightly for sleep, using only one layer more than what would make an adult comfortable.
So if grandparents feel that they would be comfortable in light cotton nightclothes, their baby grandchild needs only light cotton pyjamas and an undershirt.
Sharing a Bed
While many families choose to allow their babies to sleep with adults in a large family bed, experts frequently discourage the practice. Studies indicate that sleeping in an adult bed increases the chances of cot death as well as putting babies at risk of injury from falls.
Grandparents who are hosting their grandchildren should provide a safe, modern cot for babies.
When we consider sleep safety for children, we usually think of babies and the risks of cot death. While the sleeping arrangement for babies must be carefully considered, there are risks for older children, as well.
Children sleeping in unfamiliar settings, such as when they are visiting their grandparents, may be more restless than they are in their own home, making them more likely to toss and turn, possibly falling out of bed. A rail guard, or bedrail, may help, especially for younger children.
Additionally, grandparents may want to consider leaving a small night light on so that if the grandchildren need to get up during the night to use the bathroom, they can more easily negotiate their way around. If there are staircases, they should be properly gated with permanently installed safety gates so that sleepy children do not accidentally take a tumble during the night.
Late Night Stories and Pillow Fights
Visiting grandparents can be fun and memorable for children, and often, house rules about snacking and bedtimes are a bit relaxed.
Grandparents can leave the responsibilities of providing proper nutrition to the children’s parents, so as long as the parents approve, kids are free to indulge in a few sweets and engage in a bit of silliness before heading off to bed.
Time spent with grandparents is all about making memories and developing lasting bonds — so cookies, cocoa, bedtime stories and pillow fights are all in order.
Who says you shouldn’t jump on the bed?!