It's a familiar refrain to many of us grannies who take care of our grandchildren from time to time -- or even most of the time. "Careful! Do it this way! Are you sure you'll be all right? Here's the [3-page, single-spaced] list of what to do. Mom!" And so on and so on.
Have they forgotten that we've raised at least one child to adulthood? Do they think that just because we became grandmothers we've lost every drop of smarts? Do they think we're hopelessly mired in the past and that we can't cope with today's children? That we don't read newspapers and learn new tricks of the child-caring trade? Plenty of times the answer is an emphatic YES.
Grandparenting workshops make the same assumption when they tell us how to put babies to sleep (on the back, not the tummy), how to strap them into car seats (very securely -- duh!), what temperature to make the bath water (not too hot, not too cold -- just right). Even academics have voiced the concern that older relatives like us are too incompetent to take care of kids. As one put it: "Recent growth in the number of grandparents providing childcare has some observers concerned they don't adhere to modern safety practices."
And yet -- and yet – these same academics have now told us that we do a great job! Children are safest when Granny watches them. Yes, safer than daycare, safer than other relatives, even safer than Mommy. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed more than 5500 newborns in 15 U.S. cities until the children were 30 to 33 months old. They kept track of who took care of the children and of all the doctor and emergency room visits for causes ranging from "cut face," to "drank paint thinner," to "fall from shopping cart." Scary stuff -- especially since injury is the leading cause of childhood deaths in the U.S. After adding up all the data, grandmothers came out way ahead: children cared for by a granny have half the risk of injury than kids in those other situations.
Check it out. The article is in the November issue of "Pediatrics," the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The lead author of the study is Professor David Bishai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. of Johns Hopkins, and you can access a summary of the study findings at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/122/5/e980.
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