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Ain't Parenting Grand?

Suddenly Parents

Difficult Issues to Deal With continued...

Even in the best circumstances it is not easy for grandparents to become parents again," says Hollidge. One particularly difficult aspect is dealing with the legalities.

"Grandparents are always reluctant to enter into formal arrangements," she says. "In many states it means having to take their own child to court to have that child declared an unfit parent."

Some states, such as California and Delaware, have passed education and medical consent laws that allow grandparents who can produce an affidavit of residence and relationship to enroll grandchildren in school and sign consents for medical care. But legislation varies widely from state to state, according to the AARP.

Discovering How Things Have Changed

According to the AARP, the average age of first grandparents -- when their first grandchild is born -- is 47, which is very different from the image of gray-haired, rocking-chair-bound grandparents in earlier generations, says Mullane. Nevertheless, she says, even at this relatively young age, "it is still true that things have changed since these grandparents were first parents."

Pediatricians can help by educating grandparents about some of those changes, says Andrea McCoy, MD, director of primary care at Temple University Children's Medical Center, in Philadelphia. For example, the "Back to Sleep" campaign is a recent effort to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Grandparents need to be told that infants must be put to sleep on their backs, not on their stomachs, says McCoy, advice that runs contrary to what many of them did with their own children. "But we now know that by putting the infant on his or her back we reduce the risk of SIDS," she says.

And while many grandparents did use car seats for their own children, the technology and practice have changed in recent years.

"Grandparents need to know that infants should be in rear-facing car seats, in the back seat, until they are 1 year old and 20 pounds," says McCoy. Moreover, all children should ride "in the back seat until they are 12 years old."

Nutrition recommendations have also changed in recent years.

Many grandparents will recall being urged to "get their babies on solid food" as soon as possible, says McCoy, but that's stressed less these days. Since grandparents don't have the option of breast milk, good infant nutrition means just formula for at least four months, she says. Cereals can be started thereafter, but the infant should be kept on formula until he or she is at least a year old, she says.

"Babies should not drink [cow's] milk until they are at least a year old," says McCoy. When foods are introduced, McCoy says they should be introduced by giving "the same vegetable or fruit for at least three days. This helps us identify the foods that may cause an allergic reaction."

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