There’s a baby coming! It might be your daughter’s, your daughter-in-law’s, your niece’s or even your grandchild’s. You can hardly hold your enthusiasm—or your concerns. You want to share your own experience, give advice and be a part of the picture.

That’s great—to a point. But what you say and do could actually help or hurt the situation, and the last thing you want to do is cause trouble…right? To help “expectant” grandparents understand what to say and do and what not to say and do, we spoke with Kathy Hartke, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Brookfield, Wisconsin, who sees both sides of this equation all the time—expectant parents and the grandparents-to-be—and who happens to have seven grandchildren of her own. Here are her five rules for expectant grandparents…

Rule #1: Spare the gory details. Expectant women don’t want to hear scary childbirth stories. They’re upsetting. Even if you labored for 48 hours and tore from here to there, every labor is different—even among moms and their own daughters.

Rule #2: Be nonjudgmental and more thick-skinned. Ask, “Is this something new since I had children?” if you think your pregnant daughter (or daughter-in-law) is doing something amiss. And don’t feel hurt if your child doesn’t follow your advice. Pregnant women (and women with babies) tend to listen to their doctors and their friends with kids, not their moms.

Rule #3: Stay out of the birthing room. Childbirth is perhaps the most personal experience possible, which is why in most cases, a woman wants to share it just with her partner. So unless you’re invited, hang out in the waiting room or at home. No hinting about going into the room, either—that just puts pressure on the parents.

Rule #4: Support the partnership between the new parents. Fathers these days want to be involved—and that’s what their wives want too. So resist the urge to praise your son or son-in-law for simply doing his share, like diapering the baby or getting up for a nighttime feeding. And don’t say he’s babysitting when he’s…parenting.

Rule #5: Retire the heirloom equipment. Once the baby arrives, you can provide invaluable grandparenting—not to mention, sorely needed babysitting. But safety standards for cribs, playpens, high chairs, swings, car seats and other infant equipment have changed dramatically and for the better even in the past few years—so the equipment you have in the attic should not be used. To know what’s needed to equip your home safely for your new grandchild, either research “safe baby gear” online…or, yes, ask the expectant parents about it!

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