Advice for Grandparent Caregivers: 5 Questions Answered


Millions of grandparents are providing daytime (or all-the-time) care for their grandchildren. Grandparents are caring for one in four children under the age of 5. In addition, 14 percent of grandparents are their grandchildren’s legal guardians.

Why do grandparents care for grandchildren?

A majority of grandparents (58 percent) provide care because they enjoy it, and 53 percent provide care so the child’s parents can work. Other reasons grandparents provide care include:

  • Helping the family save money on childcare
  • To help their child who is a single parent
  • To pass down family values

Updated advice for grandparents who are helping to raise grandchildren

Since parenting recommendations may have changed since their first parenting go-round, grandparents may not understand the latest advice when it comes to safe parenting practices. While seeking the advice of a pediatrician is always best, here are answers to five questions grandparents commonly ask:

When can my grandchild safely start eating peanuts?

Guidance surrounding when to introduce peanuts has changed considerably in the past 10 to 20 years. Previously it was thought that children should avoid peanuts for the first five years of life.

Based on the 2015 Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) trial, pediatricians now recommend the early introduction of peanuts. The study showed that risk for peanut allergies was reduce by 81 percent if infants were fed peanuts early and often. The new guidelines recommend:

  • Children with severe eczema, egg allergy or both should consider allergy testing. Based on those results, you may want to introduce peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months.
  • Children with mild-to-moderate eczema may ingest peanut-containing foods around 6 months
  • Children with no eczema or peanut allergy risk can eat peanut-containing foods based on the family’s preference.

What should liquid nutrition look like for my grandchild?

Fluid nutrition is an integral part of development. Pediatricians recommend these fluid guidelines:

  • Infants 0 to 6 months: Only offer breast milk or formula.
  • Infants 6 to 12 months: Primarily provide breast milk or infant formula and limit water to 4 to 6 ounces per day. Your grandchild should not drink any juices or sodas.
  • Children 12 months and older: You may use cow’s milk in place of formula. Offer water and breast milk but limit the intake of juices because they are high in sugar. Avoid sugar-added drinks like sodas or sweetened milks, which can lead to weight gain.

What foods should I avoid giving to my grandchildren?

Avoid giving your grandchild honey for the first 12 months because it can cause a serious poisoning known as botulism. Avoid honey-containing products as well, including honey-sweetened yogurts, crackers and cereals.

Children under the age of 5 are at the highest risk for choking, so avoid these foods:

  • Uncut round fruits and vegetables like grapes
  • Pieces of hard, raw fruits and vegetables
  • Whole peanuts or seeds or popcorn with kernels
  • Hot dogs or sausages that aren’t cut lengthwise
  • Tough meats
  • Dry fruits like raisins
  • Hard candies and chewing gum

Can my infant grandchild sleep on their belly?

In 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised its sleep recommendations to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is sleep-related death. Infants up to 12 months of age are at risk for SIDS. The AAP guidelines recommend:

(SIDS), which is sleep-related death. Infants up to 12 months of age are at risk for SIDS. The AAP guidelines recommend:

  • Placing infants on their back to sleep for the first 12 months
  • Avoiding propping devices that put your grandchild in a side-sleeping position
  • Continuing to place children on their backs until they can roll to their bellies on their own — when this happens, they can be allowed to sleep in whatever position they prefer
  • Using a mattress that is firm, flat and doesn’t have gaps between the crib
  • Removing pillows and loose blanks from the crib or sleep environment
  • Dressing infants in no more than one clothing layer to avoid overheating, which is a risk factor for SIDS

How can I keep my grandchild safe in the car?

Car seats keep infants and toddlers safe in moving vehicles if you follow these guidelines:

  • Have your grandchild ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the weight or height limitations set by the manufacturer. Most car seats can accommodate a rear-facing child beyond 2 years.
  • When switching to a forward-facing car seat, choose a seat equipped with a harness and keep them in the seat until they outgrow the height or weight limits set by the manufacturer.
  • Use a belt-positioning booster seat until your child reaches the height of 57 inches (usually between 8 and 12 years of age).
  • Keep any child under the age of 13 safely strapped in the back seat of the car.

For more in-depth information, including common safety hazards in the home and how to care for an ill child, watch the UCLA Health webinar, Parenting for the Second Time: Updated Advice for Grandparent Caregivers. To find a general pediatrician call 310-825-0867.