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The Most Dangerous Member of Your Babysitter Pool

Photograph by Twenty20

There is comfort in knowing that your children are safe at home with Grandma and Grandpa, should you ever need to step away from parenting. There are also several implied expectations that may not be met when we rely on them for childcare.

And it's putting kids in danger.

According to Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York and lead author of a study focused on the difficulties grandparents face while raising their offspring's children, we need to educate our parents on current procedures and guidelines when caring for our children.

Research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academics Societies meeting showed that nearly a quarter of grandparents had no idea that infants should sleep on their backs. They also weren't aware of the dangers posed by loose bedding. These are two significant threats to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). *Gulps*

The study included a survey completed by 636 participants in the U.S. who self-identified as grandparents. The results? Somewhat disturbing.

When asked whether scrapes or cuts heal better with or without a bandage, 68 percent of grandparents did not know that wounds should be covered. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but we’re not done yet.

Of those polled, 44 percent of the grandparents believed that ice baths are a good way to bring down a very high fever.

Brrrr, that's a chilly statistic. Can you say "hypothermia"?

"Sure, it might sound logical," said Adesman, "but it's dangerous to ever put a child into cold water, because you can drop down the body temperature too much."

On a positive note, most of the grandparents questioned were cognizant of the fact that using butter to treat minor burns was not a proper technique—key word being "most."

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that many grandparents feel their methods are safe. And why not? They were parents once themselves, and their kids turned out just fine.

But parenting laws have changed a lot in the past 20 to 30 years. And by "changed," we mean they now exist.

For example, we now have rear-facing, five-point harness car seats, whereas in the old days, we were lucky if a tree didn’t hit us in the face when we stuck our heads out the window to escape the cigarette fumes coming from the front seat.

As parenting protocols continue to evolve, so does the learning curve for caregivers. This can be particularly challenging for anyone not caring for a child on a day-to-day basis—especially those who are a bit older and set in their ways.

"When grandparents step up to the plate, it can be wonderful for grandchildren but can also pose challenges in terms of lifestyle, finances and mental and physical health to a somewhat older or elderly cohort," Adesman said. "In their questionnaires, a fairly large sample size of grandparents felt they were doing a good job but acknowledged they didn't have the support they often needed and that their role could be alienating in terms of their own peer group."

In addition to finding a good support system, Adesman recommends that grandparents use the same resources available to parents (such as the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website) to stay current on child safety issues.

The best thing that we (parents) can do to ensure the safety of our children is to make sure all caregivers stay in the loop when it comes to childcare, and choose our battles wisely.

Remember: There are far worse things in the world than eating pancakes for dinner.

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