It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep grandparents from being able to help out after a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to support new parents. But there are still ways you can help! So far we've covered hiring a postpartum doula, sleep consultant and household help.
Today Katie Clark of The Breastfeeding Mama shares how breastfeeding support can help new mothers.
According to a UC Davis study, the vast majority of new moms report having trouble breastfeeding - around 92%. Through my own experience, the number one thing that helped when I was struggling to breastfeed my own children was support - especially from my own mother.
Breastfeeding and infant nutrition recommendations have changed over the years, and the prevalence of breastfeeding has increased as well. This may make it difficult for grandparents to know the best way to support their breastfed grandchild and his or her parents, especially if they aren’t familiar with breastfeeding.
To a new mom, just knowing she has someone in her corner cheering her on can make a bad day a little bit easier. Even if the new mom isn’t struggling with something specific, the early days of breastfeeding can be exhausting! Kind words go a long way.
How Can Grandparents Help?
First of all, be gentle - new moms have tons of hormones and emotions that are all over the place. Even if she’s doing something different than you did, try to be kind in your recommendations.
Be encouraging - simply having someone say, “I’m here for you” can make a world of difference. Saying something like, “Just give a bottle” or “Formula works just fine!” might not be the best approach. There may come a time when a mother needs to be told it’s okay to stop breastfeeding, but I would avoid jumping to that at the first sign of trouble. The vast majority of breastfeeding problems have solutions with the right support.
Encourage the new mom to take a breastfeeding class and attend with them if they need you to. Online breastfeeding classes are affordable, can be taken at home, and are a good resource for grandparents who want to be as helpful as possible.
Educate yourself - there’s so much information available on breastfeeding these days. My favorite website is KellyMom.com for up-to-date information on pretty much every topic related to breastfeeding. I also have many useful articles on my websites, The Breastfeeding Mama and Clarks Condensed. Breastfeeding Essentials is one of our mini classes that might be especially helpful for a grandparent.
Offer to find help - if you see a mother struggling, reaching out for help might be difficult for her. Being sleep deprived and overwhelmed, she might not even know where to start. Thankfully, there are a lot of lactation specialists available these days, so when you find you can’t offer the support you want, you can help direct a new mom in the right direction. It can be a little overwhelming to know exactly what each kind of lactation specialists does, so here is an overview of the three main categories:
When each of my first two grandchildren was born, I went to help my son and his wife for the first week or so. I did all the things my mother had done for me: keeping up with the laundry, fixing meals and filling the freezer, sweeping floors and doing dishes. My third grandchild, however, arrived just days before the nation shut down because of Covid-19—and all the help I wanted to give was impossible.
Luckily, I had visited the month before and the freezer was full for the first couple of weeks after the baby arrived. But as time has worn on, I’ve looked for ways to help without actually being there. If you can’t be where help is needed, there are a variety of services that can fill in for you. Read on for some services you can offer to arrange if your grandbaby’s parents are open to them.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep grandparents from being able to help out after a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to help the new parents. That doesn’t mean you can’t help out, though. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some ways that you can support new parents without being there.
Today, we’ll hear from Sheryl Cooksley, a postpartum doula from Family Tree Doula Services. Enjoy!
Not so long ago, grandparents were allowed inside the hospitals, birth centers or homes where their latest grandbaby (or babies) was being born. Not now.
Grandparents could fly across the country without hesitation and race in to see the new family all in the same day. Not now.
Grandparents were retired, empty nesters with unlimited time on their hands to provide endless joyful hours providing care to the new family. Not now.
Although grandparents had to be very cautious, especially during flu season, they did not have to follow the protocols that are becoming the new normal during this pandemic. Washing hands and using hand sanitizer has always been a requirement to be around new babies, but donning masks, self-isolation, even quarantining are all present-day necessities for new grandparents. These obstacles may leave grandparents feeling helpless and angry.
They wanted to cook meals and fold those cute tiny baby clothes and HOLD THEIR GRANDBABY. They wanted to guide the new parents using the knowledge they gathered in their Grandparent Bootcamp and from a lifetime of caring for children and babies. They took the time to get up-to-date and learn all about the mountains of baby gear, new parenting philosophies and grandparent etiquette. They had planned on doing the night shift and making sure the new parents were well prepared to be on their own. They were ready to be the best grandparents (and parents) EVER.
This was not how it was supposed to be!
This was not what they had planned.
When you first heard what your future grandchild was to be named, were you instantly alarmed?
"Muriel is too old-fashioned!" "Juniper is too modern!"
"Slade is just weird!" "Feebee? Spell it right!"
"I knew a dreadful girl named Lindsay!"
"George is such an ugly name!"
Of course you have opinions—names are powerful and, usually, permanent. One in five grandparents admits to hating a grandchild’s name. Actually hating it! What do you do if you are one of them?
First, what you don’t do: tell your grandchild’s parents that you hate it. You don’t need to fake enthusiasm, but you do not want to be among the 2% of grandparents who have a permanent falling-out over something that is, ultimately, none of your business. Grandparenting is one long lesson in when to bite your tongue, and it starts here.
If you can do so without revealing how much you dislike their choice, ask why the name is meaningful to them. Their reasons may help you see the name in a different light. Perhaps George was a beloved uncle, or Lindsay a best friend who died young.
Next, realize that the name will likely grow on you as soon as you have a delightful baby to attach it to--more than 75% of the grandparents who initially disliked their grandchild's name have learned to accept it over time. If you really can’t stand it, try out a nickname that will be your special name for the child. Two things to be careful of: if the parents object, respect their wishes. And make sure it’s something that you can use when they are a teenager!
Did you hate your grandchild's name when you first heard it? Please share your experience in the comments!
When Lesley Stahl became a grandmother, she was stunned by the way it affected her emotionally. Ever the reporter, she set about to find out whether her experience was the norm. Becoming Grandma is the engaging, informative result of her research. As she shares stories of her transformation into Grandma, she explores the ways grandparents can play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. Stahl offers insight into the complexities of a being a grandparent in today’s world, where a child may have four sets of grandparents and parents are inundated with parenting advice from the internet. This well-researched book is well worth reading--buy a copy and lend it out to your grandmother friends.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Every penny helps support this site and allows me to visit my grandchildren, so thank you for your support!
Do you remember playing outside as a child? I spent hours upon hours playing in the woods: making elaborate houses with fallen branches, shaping dishes out of the clay we found in the soil, decorating with flowers and leaves. I remember climbing trees so high I got dizzy and had to be coached back down. There were games of hide and seek in the tall grass of an empty lot across the street, and in the winter, elaborate snow forts and all-neighborhood snowball fights.
Children need nature. And not just seeing it, but experiencing it: the feel of grass under their feet, the sound of the birds in the woods, the smell of wet dirt. Studies have shown that children who play regularly in natural environments exhibit more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often*. But for too many children, time playing in nature is a rare treat.
So how can we, as grandparents, help?
Make your yard a place for exploration.
Provide them with natural elements for creative play: sticks and stones and leaves and dirt and water. Keep a place for them to dig for worms. Let them make forts in your bushes and move the rocks in your border. Let them climb your trees and hang from the branches. Let them lie on the grass and watch the bugs. Let them go barefoot and let them get dirty.
It can be that easy. But if you want more ideas for making your backyard into a child-friendly play space, I highly recommend Molly Dannenmaier’s book, A Child’s Garden. She provides dozens of ideas and inspiration for creating natural play areas that fit into adult gardens.
For more about the crucial role nature plays for all of us, read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams.
No backyard? No problem. I’ll share ideas for connecting children to nature in my next post.
*Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001
This post contains affiliate links to products I have personally chosen to share. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Every penny helps support this site and allows me to visit my grandchildren, so thank you for your support!
The world feels like a much scarier place than it did just a week ago. The numbers of people getting sick with Covid-19 are increasing exponentially. Communities are pulling together while we all try to stay away from one another. Family disappointments are piling up: graduations, trips to see new babies, weddings—all cancelled or postponed. Just when we need each other, we are told to stay apart. Experts tell us it will get worse before it gets better.
Grandparents, it is at times like this that you are needed most.
What every family needs right now is someone to turn to who can help make it feel safer. Who better than you? No matter how shaky you feel, here are some ways for you to be a source of strength and wisdom as your family battles the stress they are experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Did you serve in a war? Live through the polio era? Spend time unemployed and broke? Watch a loved one struggle with illness or addiction?
Most of us have faced hard times and come through stronger. Share your stories with your family, especially if you never have before. Stories are the foundation of strong families, and now is the perfect time to strengthen those foundations.
Earlier this week, my newest granddaughter arrived and surprised us all. Not only was she two weeks early, but my son and his wife hadn’t found out this baby’s gender, and all bets were on them having a boy. It was a disorienting moment when I got the news—I had a moment of wondering who was sending me a baby picture. But as soon as the truth of her being sunk in, I immediately fell in love. Then I started to worry a little.
We had made careful plans to make sure that this growing family had help. With a not-yet two-year-old and a not-yet four-year-old, a new baby means a lot of little mouths to feed and hands to keep busy. I went to visit a couple weeks ago and filled the freezer, and my daughter-in-law’s parents were planning to come a few days before her due date to help on the scene. I have a trip booked in a month, which was intended to correspond with her parents leaving. Now there is a week that they’ll be on their own before her parents can get there, and there will be a bigger gap before I arrive for my turn as extra adult.
I’ve got enough airline miles to make an extra trip or change my flight. But I can’t go earlier for an important reason: I have three other adult children. Since they are all on academic calendars this year, they are each planning a spring break visit home in the next month. I don’t ever want my children to think they come second to my grandchildren. I know my son and his wife will figure it out together, and no one will actually die of sleep deprivation.