23 years of grandparenting: what’s changed, what hasn’t


November 8, 2017

Grandmother of 13 — with 3 great-grands! — shares highlights of how baby-rearing has changed over the years.


My, how times have changed.

I am a grandmother of 13, with three great-grandchildren. My oldest grandchild is now 25. Looking back, and how I cared for him – and what he wore, and what he ate – is totally different than what I do with these precious great-grandchildren!

In my earlier grandparenting years, when I learned of a baby coming, I knew I had a few months to prepare. I would buy a wicker hamper and tuck it away in a closet. Each week when going out shopping, I would buy something to toss into the hamper. By the time the baby was born, I had bottles, bottle brushes, lotions, powders, diapers, bibs, blankets, formula and lots of clothes —the works! I watched each proud mama as she opened her hamper full of baby bliss.

As I readied for this last round of babies, it struck me how much taking care of a newborn has changed. First of all, the hamper purchase is done much earlier because today’s mamas-to-be know when they are even a week pregnant! Here are some other things that have changed:

Breastfeeding is strongly encouraged now.

I am happy to talk about the benefits of breastfeeding with moms-to-be. No bottles needed in that hamper!

Rooming in?

When my babies were born, I called into the nursery asking for my baby to be brought to my room. No more. Now, the importance of bonding and learning baby’s ‘cues’ are stressed to new moms and dads. Babies room-in with the moms and dads and are cared for together.

Bath and bedtime go differently now.

Decades ago, we bathed newborns daily, lathered and slathered them up with lotions and powder. They smelled sweet and cuddly! Now, however, the recommendation is to bathe babies just once or twice a week. Lotions are not necessary for newborns. Powders are not recommended because baby might breathe in harmful particles of talcum.

No more soft, fuzzy blankets and matching bumper pads and dust ruffles.

The ABCs of Safe Sleep are now etched into my brain, to help babies stay safe. (Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs and in Cribs – ABC.) No more swaddling them in blankets to sleep. Today’s hamper of gifts would include sleep sacks, because today parents are encouraged to dress their babies in sleep sacks for naps and bedtime. These garments help reduce the danger of suffocation. We no longer place babies on their tummies to sleep. Instead, we rest them on their backs. The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome has decreased significantly since babies stopped sleeping on their tummies.

Equipment exists today to make all kinds of things easier.

Today those baby swings glide and rock gently and can even vibrate and play lullabies. Special pillows help position baby for breastfeeding. Monitors allow you to hear and see baby from your bedroom, or anywhere in the house. “Nanny-cams” let you watch babysitters as they watch your babies.

Newborn photos evolve.

Many of you may recall the photo that we all purchased — the tightly wrapped newborn (much like a burrito ) — the red-faced newborn that we couldn’t wait to take home! Today, those burrito photos have been replaced by artistic photos of the newborn, with family and siblings, of dimpled hands and wrinkly feet.

Some things about babies and parenting (and grandparenting), however, never change. The most important? The pure delight when that tiny being enters the world and being there to witness the miracle. Nothing has changed about the immense love that I feel knowing that this little being is loved and welcomed. I pray for these babies to have a good life and reap all the world has to offer.

So, a call to all moms and grandmothers-to-be: Equipment and practices change, to give our babies the safest environment possible. It’s important to read all we can, to learn how to keep our babies safe and protected.

The love? That happens without books or classes, all on its own.


This post was written by Marlee Crankshaw,  who has worked for more than 35 years as a bedside nurse, a charge nurse, case manager, director and now the administrative director of nursing for neonatal services at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Her free time is devoted to writing, home, family and having large family dinners – what she calls “blessed chaos.”