Preparing to be ‘Nana’ isn’t like it used to be

  • By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
  • Sunday, October 23, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

Call me Nana.

I considered Gram, but that’s what my children call my mother. Grandma? That was my husband’s mom. I’ll be Nana — just like that lovable baby-sitting dog in “Peter Pan.”

You read it right. I’m about six weeks away from becoming a grandmother. What I have known since East

er weekend, when my lovely daughter surprised me with an ultrasound picture, I am now at liberty to share.

And yes, I know my grandchild’s gender. I’ll keep you guessing.

The real reason I chose this topic — other than to let you know I’ll soon have a grandma’s brag book of baby pictures — is that taking care of infants isn’t what it used to be.

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics expanded its recommendations for infant sleep safety. The new guidelines are aimed at reducing the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other sleep-related dangers.

If your kids are grown and gone, what you think you know about babies may be the opposite of what doctors today know is best.

My two older children slept on their tummies as infants. In the 1980s, new parents were told that would keep babies safe from choking if they spit up.

In the early 1990s, a “Back to Sleep” campaign was pushed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health. Since then, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, deaths from SIDS are down dramatically.

What’s new in the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines released Tuesday involves cute and cuddly crib bumpers, blankets and pillows. Get all that bedding out of the crib, that’s what experts now say.

In its announcement, the pediatrics group said that despite the decline in SIDS, “sleep-related deaths from other causes, including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased.”

“What we know is that soft bedding poses a risk,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician and author of a blog called Seattle Mama Doc. “Babies don’t have the strength and coordination to get out of a position.”

A crib, she said, should only have a fitted bottom sheet. “It should be a bare crib, with the baby smack in the middle on their back with nothing around them — no bumpers, blankets, animals or pillows,” said Swanson, who also sees patients at The Everett Clinic in Mill Creek.

She said that even sleep positioners, designed to keep babies on their backs, pose a risk.

Wow, I have lots to learn. The crib bumpers for my children were yellow gingham — I didn’t know whether I would be having a boy or a girl.

The sturdy oak crib I used for my babies (it’s still in my basement) is no longer considered safe. It has drop sides. New federal rules imposed in June banned the manufacturing, selling or reselling of drop-sided cribs.

Swanson said that more than 35 deaths have been linked to drop-side cribs, whether those that are improperly put together, have broken parts, or are rigged so the sides won’t drop.

Here’s more news for parents and grandparents-to-be: The American Academy of Pediatrics also last week discouraged parents from relying on television or other media to teach or occupy babies under 2. The group cited data showing “there were more potential negative effects than positive effects of media exposure for the younger set.”

Dr. Krista Galitsis is a pediatrician with the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance. She has wise words for new moms and grandparents. “Grandmas always think, ‘I raised my kids and they did perfectly fine.’ I tell moms, if you have grandma around to just nod, but do what you feel is best,” Galitsis said.

In a way, she said, advice for new parents is a throwback to simpler times. “Other than super fancy car seats,” Galitsis said, the return to spare cribs, breast-feeding and no TV resembles the parenting of infants a century ago.

New parents learn that breast-feeding exclusively for the first six months is healthiest. Yet Galitsis said some grandparents try to sneak bites of mashed potatoes to babies who are just a few months old.

I won’t do that, I promise.

Swanson, a member of an American Academy of Pediatrics executive committee, tells new parents about what she calls “the grandma factor.”

“There is a sense of security in what you did,” Swanson said. The latest science, though, provides more security than grandma.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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