Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Old (But Still Amazing)

New parents need all the help they can get. Thankfully, with baby boomers’ fully entering retirement mode, the number of available grandparents in the United States is higher than ever. According to the Census Bureau, the number of grandparents in the nation has risen by 24 percent since 2001, making the total number of grandparents in the 65 million range.

Although new parents may be glad to have grandparents (and grandparents-in-law) around to help with babies and toddlers, they may encounter some feelings of trepidation, too. After all, more than two decades may have passed since Grandma has handled a baby, and the rules and research have changed significantly. Parents often struggle finding the balance between gratefulness and assertiveness when it comes to the care of their child. But fear not, we’re here to help. Here are four debunked child care myths and how to handle any heated discussions with love.

Out with the old: This breastfed baby needs water!

Grandma remembers a time when breast milk just wasn’t enough. If a baby was fussy and breastfeeding, it was assumed the baby was dehydrated. Not so, say modern times. Breast milk/formula is truly the only fluid your baby needs. Babies typically do not require water until closer to 6 months when they are eating solids.

Explaining the new: Thank you, Grandma, for your suggestion to give her water. However, did you know water can flush out important nutrients the baby needs? Also, it can fill her up and keep her from wanting milk, and milk keeps her nourished. All she needs is her breast milk/formula until she’s a little older!

Out with the old: The baby is cold! Give that poor thing a blanket at night!

Sleep is a big point of contention in many multigenerational households, and everyone has an opinion. Grandma believes in a nice warm blanky for the baby, along with a soothing stuffed animal and maybe a crib bumper in case she rolls over and hits her head. No dice, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Those soft, cushiony items poses risks for suffocation and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Explaining the new: We keep the room at a nice warm temperature, and she’s extra toasty in those cute jammies you gave us! Studies show that blankets and bumpers put babies at a higher risk for death before the age of 12 months. We just don’t feel comfortable risking that. Besides, she’s hardly moving in her crib at night, so she won’t hurt herself. You can check out the monitor with us!

Out with the old: Give that sweet baby cereal to fill his tummy and make him sleep longer! He’s 4 months old and needs the extra sustenance!

Again, with the sleep issue, but this Grandma has a point, right? Sorry, but no. Although it’s true that the baby could be waking wanting food, the cereal isn’t going to add enough calories to make a difference time-wise. Babies simply need to eat throughout the night when they’re younger. And recently research has shown cereal and solid foods shouldn’t even begin until closer to 6 months.

Explaining the new: There’s actually no evidence that cereal helps with sleep. In fact, one study by the Academic Pediatric Association showed that feeding a baby cereal before 4 months can actually disrupt his sleep! More likely, the baby is entering a sleep regression, or perhaps his room is too bright. Maybe you could help me make some blackout curtains for him this weekend?

Out with the old: If you keep holding that baby, you’ll spoil him for life.

Spoiler alert: You cannot spoil a baby by holding him. To the contrary, babies need comforting—and a lot of it. As a matter of fact, hospitals encourage skin-to-skin time because it increases the bond between parent and child significantly, and even can stabilize an elevated heartbeat or stress levels for a baby. For this argument, you don’t need research to back you up. Stand strong and defend your position as a parent.

Explaining the new: Grandma, I know it seems like I’m spoiling him, but he has plenty of years to run around on his own and hate me for making him wear overalls. For now, I’m going to love on him as much as I possibly can. If loving and hugging and cuddling him is wrong, I simply don’t want to be right (mic drop!).

Out with the old:  Don’t feed her strawberries—she’ll get a sweet tooth!

Let’s be real, the crux of this suggestions is firmly planted in fear: fear that the baby will develop a taste for sweets and, therefore, someday be fat. No, no and no. According to research, babies are already born with a penchant for the sweet stuff (hello, breastmilk). It’s human nature to enjoy the taste of sugar. Fruits are healthy in moderation, and having some won’t hurt your child.

Explaining the new: You know, Grandma, my brother and I were both raised eating the same foods, but he loves salty foods and I love sweet foods. If we give the baby a wide variety of choices (consider having this conversation while roasting some yams), I think we’ll be just fine!

In situations where a grandparent challenges your parenting choices with outdated information and old wives’ tales, don’t be afraid to establish who makes the rules: you and your partner. Listening to the advice is always a good idea (because often you’ll get some good nuggets!), but that doesn’t mean you must heed it. A great diffuser is to hop on the internet together and fact check on credible sites. This way both of you can learn something together, and reading that outside expert source takes the pressure off you and your partner to have the right words. If all else fails, make a rule that the pediatrician is the ultimate tie breaker. Put him on speaker phone, and may the odds be ever in your favor!


Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for KC. She lives in Liberty with her husband, stepdaughters and toddler son.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.


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