Do you remember when your baby was born? The doctor or midwife announced the arrival and gave you a quick peek of the child you just labored to bring into the world. Then the baby was whisked away to be cleaned up, weighed, measured and assessed. After an hour or so, a sweet little bundle in a knit hat and flannel blanked with blue and pink stripes was placed in your arms, and you got to properly meet your baby.
Today, medical professionals are recognizing that the first hour after birth is an important time for mother and baby to bond. In many hospitals, they no longer rush to assess babies and complete the checklist of newborn tasks. Instead, they give newborns a chance to acclimate to life outside the womb with a period of skin-to-skin contact with their mother.
You’ll be glad to know the little knit cap is still in the picture! Babies are dried off and placed on their mother’s bare chest, wearing only the cap. A blanket is draped over them, and mother and baby spend up to an hour or more simply enjoying each other.
This intimate time of relaxation is about more than bonding: it has immediate effects on baby’s physical, emotional and social development. According to research, contact with the mother’s skin stimulates the part of a baby’s brain that causes him to move towards the breast and begin feeding. This encourages physical development. Emotional and social development is sparked when the baby opens her eyes and gazes at her mother. What’s more, this period of skin-to-skin contact improves the outcome for both mother and baby.
Benefits of Skin-to-skin Following Birth
Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth helps mothers by increasing oxytocin, resulting in lower blood pressure, a quicker return to pre-pregnancy hormone levels and lower incidence of post-partum depression. It can reduce post-partum bleeding, increase breastmilk production and improve breastfeeding outcomes.
For baby, the list of benefits is even longer.
Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth has been shown to improve babies’ ability to absorb and digest nutrients and maintain their body temperature. Their heartbeat and breathing are more stable and they have higher blood oxygen levels. These babies are more successful at breastfeeding immediately after birth, and demonstrate improved weight gain. They spend more time in the crucial deep sleep and quiet alert states and even cry less often.
There are also long-term benefits of skin-to-skin contact, such as improved brain development and function and better parent attachment. Surprisingly, skin-to-skin contact has even been linked to stronger immune systems.
So why do grandparents need to know about this? Because the key to realizing these benefits is letting mother and baby enjoy this window of time without distraction. Grandparents are not part of the equation, and allowing space for parents to bond with their baby is the first generous act you can complete as a grandparent.
If you are lucky enough to be there for the delivery, this means you can help improve the health of both mother and baby by removing yourself from the room. As hard as it might be to tear yourself away, you can give your new grandchild and its parents an enormous gift by stepping away. Go get a cup of coffee and call your best friend with the news (but don’t post it on social media until you’ve been given the green light by parents!). Take a walk and dream about all the things you want to do as a grandparent.
If you aren’t there for the birth, don’t be hurt if you have to wait for a FaceTime call or visit. Your chance to get to know your new grandchild will come soon enough.
And it will definitely be worth the wait.
Wondering what else new grandparents need to know? New Grandparent Essentials is the fastest way to get up to speed on the latest trends and safety information. Get your copy now!
Being the best grandparent sometimes means admitting the old ways aren't the best ways.
What is the best way to introduce solid food to a baby?
Surprisingly, each answer to that question was the right one at one point in time. (Yes, some experts in the 1940s recommended liver soup for babies starting at three months!)
Can you imagine the conversations when those parents became grandparents in the 1960s and '70s? They probably weren’t too different than the ones happening today as grandparents watch their 7-month-old grandchild gnawing on a steak bone or a slice of melon! (Read more about the baby-led weaning method that many of today’s parents are following in this post.)
Child rearing recommendations change regularly, as research and science reveal new information about what is best for babies. In the 1920’s, parents were warned that affection could psychologically damage their babies. One kiss a day, on the forehead, was more than enough, said some experts. Mothers in the 1950s were told that babyproofing was the lazy way out: they should teach their children to stay away from dangers or breakables by yelling at them if they tried to touch something they shouldn’t. These, of course, are the more extreme examples, but they underline the point that advice to new parents is constantly changing.
Spring is in the air! It’s a wonderful time to read about nature, and here are eight picture books that will help you share the wonders of this glorious season with your grandchildren. (Click on any image or title to order from Amazon today!)
As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to keep this site ad-free.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray
While the robin sits quietly on her nest, a pair of children listen to all the other birds as they walk around the neighborhood. With lilting rhymes and lively illustrations, this book will captivate young listeners while teaching them about the variety of birds and their calls.
At the end of the book is an “interview with a bird” that shares even more information for budding birdwatchers!
Getting this book for your grands? Make it a care package! Add an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a kids’ book on birdwatching.
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak
As a boy and his dog take a walk through the countryside, they welcome all the signs of spring that they encounter. They say goodbye to winter along the way in conversations with the birds, the brook and more. The gentle, sweet story and lovely illustrations make Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring a perfect book to read to a child nestled on your lap on an early spring day.
Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea by Marianne Berkes
As children meet the animals that live on the rivers of North America, they’ll want to slither like the snakes and slide like the otters. They’ll love the rhythm of the text, based on the classic “Over in the Meadow”, and the bright, detailed pictures. They won’t even realize they are learning about geography and habitats in this delightful counting book.
In the back of the book there is additional information about the rivers and animals featured, as well as the music and lyrics to “Over in the River”.
Secrets of the Vegetable Garden by Carron Brown
Children will learn all about how a garden grows in this book in the Shine-A-Light series. Each page about the inner world of a vegetable garden includes a hidden image that only appears when a light shines through it. Your grandkids will love it!
Make sure to add a flashlight to your cart if you order this book from Amazon.
Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris
The bright, beautiful illustrations that earned this book a Caldecott Honor award show how a single flower can be experienced in many ways. The child in the story uses all five senses to appreciate the flower and all that it evokes. It’s a reminder to readers young and old to appreciate the beauty of the world! It makes a perfect read-aloud book with its thought-provoking questions, and the gorgeous pictures show up well on video chats.
The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken
This beautiful book is another excellent conversation starter! The poetic text and exquisite illustrations of children enjoying the natural world show how much each of us is like a tree.
"The tree in me is strong. It bends in the wind, and has roots that go deep . . . to where other roots reach up toward their own trunk-branch-crown and sky."
Read this inspirational book to your grandchildren and then talk about your own strengths, gifts, and communities.
The Tree That Bear Climbed by Marianne Berkes
The repetitive rhythm of The Tree That Bear Climbed is perfect for young children. Young listeners will learn about the many parts of a tree in this twist on “The House that Jack Built”. Make sure to start by asking your grandchildren why they think the bear is climbing the tree and what they think will happen when he gets to the top!
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Another beautiful book about the garden! In this one, a young girl and her grandmother share the cycle of the year in the garden: planning, planting and finally harvesting. The book’s clever illustrations share what is happening under the soil as well, giving children a worm’s eye view of the life underground. A glossary at the end of the book tells more about the animals you might encounter in your garden. Send some seeds with this one!
Games to play on zoom or video calls with your youngest grandkids
It’s a paradox of modern grandparenting: we have the technology to interact with our faraway grandchildren, but it’s still hard to connect. It’s hard to coordinate schedules, especially if you are in different time zones. It’s hard to get little ones to sit still, because they have better things to do than talk to Granny. And even if you clear those hurdles, it can be hard to keep a conversation going.
Though we can’t help with eliminating the time zone difference, we can share things to do on Zoom with grandchildren that can keep them engaged and interacting. With just a little preparation, FaceTime with grandchildren can be a regular time to play and connect.
If you’ve been following along with More Than Grand, you know one of the main ways I visit with my grandchildren over video chat is by reading them stories while they eat lunch. I’ve written more about that here. But not all children can be entertained by stories alone, and even my book-loving grands need a little variety from time to time! That’s when I turn to one of the following games during our video calls. When you are looking for Zoom activities with young grandchildren, try one of these simple games for children from one year on up.
Peekaboo As FaceTime games with grandchildren go, it can’t get any simpler than Peekaboo. I am consistently amazed at how entertaining they find it! All you need to do is cover the phone or laptop camera with your finger and exclaim, “Where’s Pops?” When you uncover it and shout “Peekaboo!” you are almost guaranteed a big grin. My grands also love moving so they aren’t on camera, so that I’ll sadly say, “Oh, my grandson is gone! I miss him so much!” Then he’ll pop back on screen with a smile and do it all over again. The best part is that you can play with the very youngest of children—sometimes as young as 6-8 months—but the six-year-old still enjoys it!
Hide and Seek This is another favorite childhood game that can be adapted into a FaceTime activity with grandchildren. If you have someone else at home, they can “hide” in another room and you can go around the house searching for them. Make sure you narrate with lots of “Is Grandma in the pantry? No, she’s not there—let’s check the living room.” If your grandchildren are old enough and familiar with your house, ask for ideas of where to look.
Another option is to hide objects around the house before your call. This can be stuffed animals, paper dolls you’ve printed and colored, toys, apples, etc. Then, when you are on video chat with the grandchildren, take your phone and use the camera go looking for the hidden items, like an Easter-egg hunt. Try to hide them in fairly obvious places, so they can be seen without moving things. You can make this easier or harder by how close you take your phone’s camera to the object you are searching for and how visible you make the hiding places.
Poison Prevention Week is March 20-26, the perfect time to identify poisoning hazards that might injure your grandchildren.
Before she could crawl, Amelia was the most content baby ever. She happily sat and watched the world go on around her, rarely fussing or making demands. Everyone who met her said the same thing: “She’s such a good baby!” And she was! Her parents quickly got used to the fact that she was no trouble at all.
And then she got mobile, and the trouble started. She got into everything, and the more dangerous it was, the quicker she found it. After months of having a perfectly behaved baby, her parents weren’t ready for one who tried to defy death on a regular basis. Even their best attempts at baby-proofing couldn’t keep her from finding hazards. They had the number for poison control on speed dial, and used it regularly. Luckily, despite her best attempts, Amelia (and her parents!) lived through all her misadventures.
The moral of this story is that babies and children, no matter how well-behaved they are, can get into trouble when we least expect it. As grandparents, we are often even less prepared for mischief: our homes are full of hazards. With Poison Prevention Week coming up March 20-26, I want to challenge you to check your house and secure any poisoning hazards now, before the next time your grandchildren are in your home.
There are three steps to protecting your grandchildren from accidental poisoning in your home:
1. Know what’s dangerous. Below, we’ve provided a list of some of the most common causes of poisoning. It’s not exhaustive, so go through your home and look for other items that may be harmful.
2. Secure all potentially hazardous substances. Remember, no container is 100% childproof. Keep all dangerous substances in their original containers and out of reach of children. Even better, keep them out of sight to reduce any temptation. Consider child safety latches on cupboards that contain hazardous items, even if they are above a child’s reach.
3. Program the number for Poison Help into your phone: 1-800-222-1222. Do it right now! (I just did it myself!)
Take a few minutes and find a safer place for the following common causes of accidental poisoning in children:
Medications. If you have your daily medications in a handy pill organizer (as many grandparents do), you need to make sure it is consistently put away where your grandchildren can’t see or reach it. Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning, and up to 20 percent of pediatric poisonings involve a grandparent’s medication. Make sure all medications, both prescription and over the counter, are out of sight and out of reach. This includes homeopathic and herbal remedies.
Household cleaners. Cleaners should be stored on a high shelf, out of reach and out of sight.
Dishwasher tabs. These shiny little nuggets look like candy to children.
Laundry pods. Like dishwasher tabs, these colorful pods appeal to curious children.
Tobacco and e-cigarette products.
Alcohol. This includes rubbing alcohol, spirits and hand sanitizer.
Pesticides and insect repellents. Make sure you check the yard and garage as well.
Button batteries. These are found in hearing aids, key fobs, books with music or sounds, etc.
Oils and lubricants. In addition to engine oil and others in the garage, think about fragrance oils, essential oils, etc.
Personal care products. Secure contact lens disinfectants, mouthwash, and other items that contain toxic ingredients.
Securing your home is just one part of the equation for grandparents.
You also need to be vigilant is when you visit your grandchild. Do you have medication in your purse? Make sure it’s not within reach, even if you are just stopping by. If you are staying overnight, don’t leave medications or other harmful substances in your suitcase where they can be found.
Smart grandparents make sure that they are up-to-date on health and safety issues. Make sure you’ve read our other posts on What Grandparents Need to Know, and get New Grandparent Essentials for even more information!
Was this post helpful? Share it with a friend!
Wondering how grandparents can help new parents? Here are 10 parent-approved ways.
Whether it’s their first baby or their fourth, parents of a newborn usually appreciate all the help they can get. Grandparents can help new parents in a variety of ways, whether they live nearby or across the world. The best part? Grandparents who offer meaningful support to parents are actually laying the foundation for strong bonds with their new grandchild.
As much as you want to spend your time doting on that new baby, putting your energy towards helping new parents will pay far greater dividends in the long run. By focusing on them, you’ll prove that you value your relationship with them—apart from their role as your grandchild’s parents.
When thinking about how to help new parents, don’t forget that the non-birthing parent needs help and support as well. It’s sometimes easy to overlook the partner that didn’t give birth, but they are also adjusting to their new role and the new demands on the family. Likewise, adoptive parents will need just as much support as any other parents.
As you read through the following ideas for helping new parents, keep in mind Rule Number One of successful grandparents: ASK FIRST. Don’t ever assume that your idea of how to help will be what new parents actually need. Read through these ideas, and pay close attention to number 9 and 10—they are the key to it all!
Ten ways to help new parents
Drop off dinner, or send a gift card to a local restaurant or delivery service. Find out if anyone has set up a meal team, and set one up if no one has. MealTrain.com and LotsaHelpingHands.com both offer online calendars so friends and family can coordinate meals for the family. We have many more tips for how grandparents can help new parents with meals in this post.
2: Household help
Ask for a list of things that need to be done in and around the house. Think beyond dishes and laundry: are there minor repairs that you could make, lightbulbs to change, a lawn to mow or flowerpots to water? If you aren’t local, look into hiring help if you can afford to.
3: Run errands
What errands could you do to help new parents? Return library books or drop off dry cleaning? Make a grocery run or pick up prescriptions? Take the car for an oil change, or just fill it with gas? Check with mom or dad to find out what you could take off their plate.
4: Walk the dog
It’s easy for our furry family members to feel neglected when a new baby arrives. Taking the dog for a walk or playing fetch can help their transition, too. And nothing lets your adult children know you love them like offering to clean the cat’s litter box or scoop poop.
5: Play chauffeur
Getting places with a new baby is a struggle in the beginning, and it just gets harder with subsequent children! Having someone else take the wheel on an outing to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store can feel like a luxury, especially if you offer to wait in the car with the baby while they take care of business.
6: Surprise the parents
While your instinct will be to buy gifts for your grandchild, don’t forget about their parents. Sending their favorite chocolates or a book you think they’d like is a way to make them feel loved. Send them our Cheat Sheet for Delighting to find out what their favorite small indulgences are, and then use it to surprise them from time to time.
7: Don’t ask how they are
Dr. Perry Mandanis recently shared during an Instagram Live that he likes to ask new parents “How are you coping?” He explained that those words allow them to share what they may be struggling with, because it shows you expect things to be difficult and not perfect. If you ask “How are you?”, the answer will probably be, “Fine”, whether they are or not.
8: Send encouraging messages
Don’t underestimate the power of a text that says, “You are an amazing parent!” Look for chances to point out what a good job they are doing as they learn their new role. If they send a picture of your grandbaby, don’t just comment on how cute the baby is. Instead, respond with “That adorable baby is clearly thriving! You are doing such a great job!” or “I’m so grateful you keep me updated—you’re such a thoughtful daughter-in-law!”
9: Ask what would be most helpful
Some parents welcome all the help they can get. Others see offers to assist as insulting or interfering. It’s important to know how your grandchild’s parents feel on the subject. Have a conversation or send an email to find out. Let them know you want to support them, and ask if they are open to help. Then outline the ideas you have, and ask if there are any that would work for them. Invite them to suggest other ways you could be useful. If they decline all help, let them know you are available if they ever change their mind.
10: Respect their wishes
This is listed last, but it’s actually the most helpful thing you can do. Whether you call them requests, boundaries, rules or demands, parents aren’t asking you to comply if it makes sense to you. When new parents make their wishes known, smart grandparents listen and go along with the request.
Have you found other ways to help new parents? Please share them in the comments!
A few years ago on Christmas, my son and his wife gathered my husband, my daughters and me together in my mother’s dining room. Now, Christmas morning at my mother’s house is utter chaos. Picture over 20 people crammed in one room to open gifts. There are children and dogs running in circles, wrapping paper and ribbons in constant motion, champagned glasses being passed across the room, and hot ham rolls disappearing as quickly as they appear. When we were summoned to the dining room, my head was swimming with the overstimulation of the last few hours, so I never wondered what was going on. When they handed us an ultrasound picture, I was completely and totally surprised.
And I was thrilled. Thrilled that my son was going to be a father. Some people are just born nurturers, and he is one. He was the older cousin the younger ones always latched onto, sensing in him someone they could play with, cuddle with, and rely on. He never objected to taking care of his little sisters, and was unfailingly responsible. And now he was going to have a child of his own! I had no doubt that he and his wife were going to be the best parents in the world. I was so excited for them!
But something even more unexpected happened when I showed the ultrasound picture to my siblings and the rest of the family. They congratulated me. That was when I realized that in addition to my son becoming a father, I was going to be a grandmother! I had barely even considered what being a grandparent would mean, since I was still a full-time parent. I wasn’t expecting congratulations for my new status—after all, it wasn’t due to any achievement of my own.
Yet the word “congratulate” is defined by Merriam-Webster as a way “to express vicarious pleasure to (a person) on the occasion of success or good fortune.” And what is being a grandparent, if not a vicarious pleasure? We congratulate new grandparents because we are excited that they will have a new person to love and dote upon. When it is someone who we know has been longing for grandchildren, our pleasure for them them is even deeper and more sincere.
If you are wondering how to congratulate grandparents, it’s easy. A simple spoken “Congratulations! I’m so happy for your family!” is plenty. If you want to do more, send a card or note. Gifts are not expected, but if you want to mark the occasion for a close friend or relative, I highly recommend a book on grandparenting or one of the other suggestions in our “Gifts for New Grandparents” post. Gifts for the baby should be given to the parents of the baby, not the grandparents. Grandparent showers are a newish trend that some parents are strongly against, so tread carefully before organizing one.
The best way to celebrate a new grandparent is by sharing your own wisdom. After you’ve congratulated the new grandparent, make sure you send them to More Than Grand!