You Might Want To Retire The ‘Tussin: Study Shows Grandparents Childcare May Be Harming Your Kids

May 14, 2017  |  

grandparent childcare harmful to kidsIt’s unfortunately becoming way too common to see a news headline that reads, “Infant Dies At Local Daycare” or “Toddler In Critical Condition After Being Assaulted By Childcare Worker”. In addition to expensive childcare costs and seriously questioning what other adults consider safe and holistic care for my kid, I literally thank God every day for the two sets of retired grandparents that are in my support system that most weeks are bickering over who gets to keep my daughter for the day. However, if you didn’t already have a healthy helping of parent paranoia, a new study says that “to Grandmother’s house we go” may not be the safest bet for your child either.

According to a recent study if Mee Maw is using butter to treat burns, rubbing liquor on gums for teething relief or using Tussin to treat any and everything, your child could be at risk. CNN reports research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academics Societies meeting on Thursday surveyed grandparents on child care techniques such as putting children on their sides to sleep, having loose bedding in a crib and using ice baths to lower a high fever which most child-care experts today would agree are outdated guidelines for care and could be possibly putting your child in harm’s way.

In a questionnaire given to 636 self-identified grandparents nearly a quarter were unaware that the safest sleeping position for babies was on their backs, and that sleeping on the sides or back puts the infant at major risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age. 68% of participants also were unaware that cuts and scrapes heal better when covered (because Grand Daddy always said, “You gotta let the air get to it.”) Researchers attribute the lack of information to the learning curve that older caregivers may experience with information that changes daily and possibly not being around other caregivers to exchange information.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York and lead author of the study, says that grandfather may not always know best and that just because your parents raised you and you turned out OK, doesn’t mean their parenting methods are the best:

“We shouldn’t assume that just because they’ve raised a child before, they’re experts.”

As a fairly new parent and former parenting educator, one of the ideas that I emphasized in my classes that were mostly made up of teenage parents and parents under the age of 25, is that the great thing about becoming a mother or father is embracing the opportunity to raise your children as you see fit.  For example, my mother’s version of the “sex talk” was, “Don’t have sex and you won’t get pregnant.” Now that I have a daughter of my own, I’ve become dedicated to raising her in a household of sex positivity where she is educated about the way her body works and encouraged to communicate honestly to me about her thoughts and feelings, even if it’s uncomfortable for me to hear. So on some level I see where Dr. Adesman is coming from.

But there is a flip side to it. Once I became a parent myself, I learned that you won’t be able to navigate the day-to-day of your child’s upbringing and your own sanity (which will be tested if you have a toddler or teen) with merely a book approved by the American Association of Pediatrics. Much of parenting comes from your gut, experience and getting to know your individual child and your unique parenting style. Very few situations in parenting are as easy as “have your child facing backwards in the car until age two” and “no aspirin for children under the age of 19”. As a parent you learn to balance when to take advice from someone who has spent a fraction of their adulthood studying child development from a book or the person who sat in steamy shower with you when you cried throughout the night because you didn’t know how to blow your nose just yet.

Look I get it: There are certain guidelines that have been scientifically proven to keep your child safe, but admittedly the last thing I want to consult in the middle of the night when I have a colicky infant who has been crying for three hours straight are stuffy AAP guidelines on how to get her to stop crying. Most days I’d like to believe that Pop Pop has the best of intentions when he’s reaching for the Tussin for a tummy ache or when Glammy thinks you should add cereal to bottle because your 6-month-old is looking a tad bit scrawny. The power in parenting is that even if you are limited on childcare options, you have every right to sit the grands down and tell them that you don’t want Tussin within two feet of your kid regardless of how you were raised.

As a new parent and recovering perfectionist, I remember the anxiety and guilt that came with thinking I didn’t do every single thing according to Dr. Sears or my child would grow up to regularly resent me and spend thousands of dollars on therapy just to find out all the bad things in life happened to her because of me. I obsessed over matching bottle tops, having a certain number of onesies in her diaper bag and thought, “There goes any chance she had at nuclear physics,” anytime she hit her head.  So the last thing I want to hear is that the woman who thinks I need my asthma inhaler every time I clear my throat should be added to the list of crib bumpers and unsecured IKEA dressers. Ironically the study found that even the pro’s could use a child safety refresher: In a previous study, Adesman surveyed pediatricians and found that only 24% answered all 12 questions about basic safety information correctly.

So what IS the best way to keep your kids safe?  In my opinion it’s surrounding them by people you trust that love them as much as you do, consulting a professional when you’re at a loss, communicating with your support system about what’s best for YOUR child and an occasional Google search about deodorant ingestion (because toddlers). It may be time to retire the Tussin, but rest assured my parents are clocking in for childcare duty tomorrow at 9:00 sharp.

Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a  passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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