Advice from our grandparents and great-grandparents

One of the things that you often find when you are first a parent is that everyone wants to give you advice. This advice is often well meant but perhaps one of the first lessons that we learn is to choose what advice we take!  

Researchers are finding new ways to understand babies and young children all of the time. If you have more than one child then sometimes, between the birth of your children, new information or explanations might be found that make you think about doing something differently. There are some ways of doing things that would be familiar to our grandparents and great-grandparents that might still be useful!  


Time to rest

I remember, after the birth of my second child my mum was surprised when, on day seven, I walked round to see her. I was fine and needed to get out of the house but my Mum’s experience was that Mum and baby did not go out for the first week or so, and rested.   

We all need to do what is right for us, but perhaps feeling ok about having a bit of quiet time, not doing too much and resting when you can, as you adjust to life as a new family, is not a bad thing!   

We asked the My First Five Years community to share the best advice that they were given when they had a new baby, and these are some of the things parents said: 

Joanne, “Don’t accept visitors in your first week, use the time to adjust to being a parent/family. It will give you time to find your feet and discover what works for you before everyone tells you what they think you should do.”  

Emma, “Rest and eat well. Babies are not born into a routine. Take the support that is offered and it is ok to say no to visitors.”

Advice - pic 1

Perhaps the thing is to listen to how you feel, rest when you need to and have the people around you who will support you and help with practical things. It might be that having someone visit who will make you a meal while you look after your baby is just the thing that you want!


Sleeping in the pram outside

I think we have all seen photographs of babies sleeping in prams outside and your parents might have left you sleeping in your pram when you arrived home after a walk.  Perhaps for our parents and grandparents this came from a desire not to disturb you and to have time to take some shopping into the house, or have a cup of tea before you woke up!  

In some countries babies sleeping outside is viewed as an important factor in promoting good health; for example, in one study 95% of parents reported that their babies slept outside, with babies sleeping in a pram outside for one sleep each day from the age of around 2 weeks. [1]  Research carried out in countries, such as Finland, where outdoor sleeping is common suggests that it can have benefits for family and child well-being, provided that appropriate clothing is used and the baby is checked regularly to ensure they are not too hot or too cold. [2]   

Advice - pic 3

We know that spending time outside is good for our well-being, so even if you decide not to follow the Scandinavian model of an outdoor sleep every day, you might find a walk with your baby in their pram and a sit on a bench while they have a sleep might be relaxing for everyone. If you want more information about safer sleeping and your baby the Lullaby Trust provides lots of information on their website. [3] 


It will all end in tears

When my cousins and I went to my Gran’s house, my memory is that we were mostly left to play while the adults chatted. I do remember that my Gran would notice the changes in the noise level or how we were playing and would comment, “It will all end in tears!” Then usually go and get us all a biscuit and a drink and get us to sit for a little while.  

When I think about it now, I think perhaps, my Gran was recognising that as children we might sometimes find it difficult to self-regulate especially when we were all together and excited. She would notice the excitement building and offer a few moments of quiet. Whilst you might not want to sit your excited children down with a biscuit, there might be times when children need us to notice and help them to calm for a few moments.  

Advice - pic 2

Now, as understandings about self-regulation have developed, you might decide to talk to your child about how they are feeling. You can help them to recognise the signals that might show them it is time to calm, “I noticed that your voice is getting louder and you are moving quickly, I wonder if you feel excited.” It might be that being louder and moving quickly is fine but you might feel that your child might act more impulsively in that moment and could hurt themselves. If that is the case you could talk to them and see if together you can think of something they could do, or you could do together to help them to calm again.


We are here to support your child's journey

The best piece of advice might be to think about which advice you listen to and remember that your baby is an individual and so are you, and together you will be working out what is right for your family. As you and your baby get to know each other you will find your own way of doing things, but you might notice some of the things that you do are linked to things that you remember your parents and grandparents doing when you were a child.  

At My First Five Years, we will keep reading research about child development and sharing this through our app. The app will support you to notice and celebrate your child’s individual journey as they master skills during their first five years. You can remember and celebrate the skills using the scrapbook and read more about the science behind the skills through further reading and longer explanations.  



[1] Tourula M, Isola A, Hassi J. (2008). Children sleeping outdoors in winter: parents’ experiences of a culturally bound childcare practice. Intl J Circumpolar Health. 67: 269–78 

[2] Tourula, M. (2011) The childcare practice of children’s daytimes sleeping outdoors in the context of Northern Finnish winter.  

[3] How to reduce the risk of SIDS for your baby - The Lullaby Trust