Study finds many grandparents out-of-date on child safety issues

Caregivers lack current information on sleep, car seats, walkers

NEW ORLEANS - When it comes to child safety issues, a new study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds many grandparents are not up-to-date.

It's an important issue because a growing number of grandparents are doing a lot more than occasional baby-sitting when it comes to their grandchildren.  According to the 2011 American Community Survey, an estimated 2.87 million grandparents are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.  That's nearly a 20 percent increase since the year 2000.

Grandparents may have a lifetime of experience, but experts say many are unaware of more recent safety recommendations, according to research presented Oct. 21 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

"Pediatric health and safety recommendations are constantly evolving," said study author Dr. Kathryn C. Hines.  "Many recommendations are likely to have changed since these grandparent caregivers parented their own children."

For the study titled, "Grandparent Caregiver Knowledge of Anticipatory Guidance Topics," researchers asked forty-nine participants to complete a 15-question survey on children safety topics.

Forty-four percent correctly answered the best position for a baby to sleep is on their back.  The others incorrectly answered the stomach or side.  The AAP recommends that infants be placed to sleep on their backs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

When asked about car seat positioning, 25 percent incorrectly responded that a 22 pound, 9 month-old child should be facing forward.  The AAP recommends that children remain in a rear-facing car seat until age 2.

Nearly half of grandparents thought bumpers, stuffed animals and blankets were safe to use in a crib.  The AAP recommends those items not be placed in cribs.

Nearly 74 percent of grandparents responded walkers were good devices to help babies learn to walk.  Experts now advise against the use of walkers.

When to introduce water was also an issue.  Sixty-three percent thought babies could have water starting between two weeks and two months.  The AAP recommends not introducing water until babies are four to six months old.

Researchers noted many parents would probably not answer all of the questions correctly either, but stressed it's important for pediatricians to make a point of sharing new guidelines with older caregivers.

"Discussion of health and safety recommendations is an essential part of routine well-child care, and pediatricians must recognize knowledge deficits that may exist in grandparent caregivers and be comfortable addressing these deficits," said primary study author Dr. Amanda Soong.

To learn more about current child safety recommendations, click here.

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