Nine Babysitting Tips for Grandparents

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
Parenthood sure is a lot different than it was “back in the day”. That means grandparenthood is also very different. Although becoming a grandparent might be one of the most exciting days of your life, it can also be frightening! Many grandparents have fears, such as whether or not they will be able to remember everything to do for babies. Is it like riding a bike, where everything just falls into place naturally?

Well, yes and no.
Many things have changed, while some things have stayed the same. For example, more doctors now understand some of the causes of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), so these recommendations will need to be advised to all new grandparents. Also, many more women now are breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) claimed that only 30% of mothers were breastfeeding back in 1965, which had increased to 75% by 2010. For grandparents, that means understanding and communication must be applied whenever taking the infant for a long spell.
Here are 9 Babysitting Suggestions for Grandmothers and Grandfathers:

  • 1. Follow the Wishes of the Baby’s Parents:
    You knew what was best for your children, even though one of those baby-makers is your own child. Now, let them decide what is best for their own children, as they have probably researched or learned new methods of doing things that work for them. Swallow your pride, while still enjoying your grandchild.
  • 2. Remember Childproofing Strategies:
    If you are a grandparent who takes medication, be sure to leave them out of sight and out of reach. Never on a coffee table, bedroom night table, or even on a bathroom vanity. Also be mindful of electrical outlets, breakable knick-knacks and other things that babies love to get their hands on. This can minimize cuts, bruises and head injuries.
  • 3. Be Mindful of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome):
    Your grandchild doesn’t need extra pillows, bigger blankets and excessive stuffed toys in the place he or she sleeps while under your watch. These can be suffocation hazards, as well as placing the baby on its back instead of on its tummy. Even if you did this with your own children, the studies reveal a close connection between these links to SIDS and newborn babies.
  • 4. Measure Your Own Physical Health and Stamina:
    Some grandparents have the best intentions, but then quickly realize the physical limitations of lifting, carrying and all of the work involved in caring for a baby. Babies are also germ-carriers, so if you have low immunity or you are sick yourself, just avoid the babysitting duties unless absolutely necessary. No sense putting your own health at risk.
  • 5. Keep Emergency Supplies Handy:
    Are you prepared for handling emergencies? Not just for yourself, but for baby? You should stock up on Band-Aids, a thermometer, medical supplies, and keep the numbers to local hospital or poison control center handy in case of emergencies. Get a first aid kit nearby and make sure to ask the baby’s mother for the insurance card numbers, as well as permission to take action if need be.
  • 6. Start with Short Visits:
    Just to make sure it will work out, before committing to a full day alone with your grandchild, try taking the baby for an hour or two to make sure you are up for the challenge.
  • 7. Set Boundaries:
    Grandkids have a way of knowing how to push their grandparent’s buttons to get what they want, but you should always ask the child’s parents what they are allowed or not allowed to do, rather than going against their wishes. This is especially true with candy, sugar, beverages, bedtimes, and other guidelines. Children always test boundaries, but staying on the same page with the parents is better for the child’s behavior.
  • 8. Don’t Feel Obligated to Say Yes:
    Just because your son or daughter is your own baby does not mean they can dish their babies off on you. As a grandparent, you do have your own life and cannot always say yes every time they want to run off to have fun. You are not a 24/7 nanny service. You should never have to cancel plans you have already made just because your own son or daughter called at the last minute. Set boundaries with the baby’s parents, too.
  • 9. Don’t Obsess Over Cleanliness:
    Grandparents often take pleasure in the ability to keep a clean home or wear nice clothing after their own children become adults. If you have special furniture or carpet, keep it covered. Kids are messy. Wear kid-friendly attire, knowing that globs of goo will get all over you. It is inevitable.

Most of all enjoy these precious moments. Becoming a grandparent is one of the greatest joys and achievements of the life cycle, so don’t forget that you can become a remarkable idol in the eyes of this child and also leaving a lasting impression with your many great “lessons of life”.


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