Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Grandmothers and breastfeeding

I have fallen behind in my Super Granny posting because I have been wearing my other hat, as the author of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING, which I am now revising for its fourth edition. The first edition, for which I consulted with New York pediatrician Marvin S. Eiger,M.D., was published in 1972, the third edition came out in 1999, and I'm thrilled that the book has become a classic in the field and has sold about two million copies (!). I'm now revising again, in consultation with a wonderful young Connecticut pediatrician, Laura M. Marks, M.D.

I'm finding the revision process still interesting, since I'm dealing with some new topics that I hadn't written about before or that I'm expanding in this edition. One is the role of the grandmother. When I was nursing my first baby, 51 years ago in 1957! and didn't know anyone else who was doing this, my mother was my staunchest supporter even though she had not had much luck nursing her own children. But sometimes women who have not nursed themselves don't understand what it's like for a breastfeeding mom. I recently read about one grandmother whose feelings were deeply hurt because she had apparently broken the bank to equip a nursery in her home with crib, baby bathtub, the works, and was hurt when her daughters-in-law gave her “excuses” for not letting their 2-month-old and 5-month-old breastfed babies spend the night at Grandma’s.

Some of the comments to a Q & A that appeared in the local newspaper that this grandma wrote into were so hostile to this grandmother, accusing her of meddling, controlling, you-name-it. But I saw a woman who wanted to be involved with her grandchildren and felt shut out -- and just didn't understand what life is like for a nursing mom and baby. A similar letter from another grandmother (another mother-in-law) appeared on the Huffington Post just last week, May 22, and received a wonderful reply from psychologist Mona Ackerman. You can access this at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mona-ackerman/all-about-breastfeeding_b_103041.html. It's a really understanding response that empathizes with the grandmother's feelings -- and still emphasizes the fact that every mother is entitled to discover the joys of parenting on her own. Or as I am putting it in the draft of my new edition: "Bite your tongue when you disagree with such parenting issues as bed-sharing, feeding on demand, and the like. You had your turn bringing up babies; now your job is to support, not to question."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Healthy Grannies

Yes, many of us are on the job -- and weathering the storm! A new study of 13,000 grandparents between the ages of 50 and 80 found that 29 percent of the grandmothers and 22 percent of grandfathers provided at least 50 hours of care per year for grandkids who don't live with them. And they're faring well. Apparently grandchildren agree with us. This study debunked earlier findings that had showed that the health of grandmothers who cared for their grandchildren was a casualty of the arrangement.

Only a small percentage of grandparents (fewer than 3 percent) give primary care, that is, they're taking care of children whose parents are not in the home. And for these grands, health often has declined when they were just starting to take care of grandkids. This could be because usually when grandparents take over the parenting role, it's unexpected and often for a stressful reason. So the adjustment takes a toll -- but even these arrangements don't bring lasting negative results for health. Once grandmothers continue skipped-generation care, they get healthier again. So overall, the news is good.

And for the majority of us, whose care for our grandkids consists of babysitting -- aside from those viruses that the kids bring home starting in preschool, we stay healthy. Must be all those smiles from the little guys and even the bigger ones!

The study, by Waite, LaPierre, and Luo, appeared in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Science.