Introducing Pets and Babies
Author: Gwen Lewis
June 13, 2017
As new parents, the elation of meeting that little one for the first time is a monumental joy and a life-changing moment. Bringing a baby home from the hospital is blissful stress that means saying goodbye to nurses, the careful attention of doctors and stepping into the full-time lifetime role of parenthood. Leaving the hospital to embark on a new life as a family can be both scary and exciting. And for couples with a ‘fur-baby,’ the return trip home requires preparation and careful thought.
Pets bond with their owners. Our cuddly friends become part of the family, like surrogate children and, oftentimes, the first real ‘baby.’ When a pregnancy pops, and a new human sibling is about to enter the family portrait, parents need to diligently plan and prepare to gradually introduce the new life to the furry firstborn.
Abrupt change is stressful for most animals, and to a dog, instant change can be downright tumultuous. Prepare animals for the new arrival as soon as possible and make the transition gradual to help eliminate any unnecessary shocks and stress.
With the right introduction and gradual acclimation toward the baby, the real face-to-face introduction between baby and their furry sibling will be the beginning of a lifetime bond of love and happiness.
Congratulations, you’re pregnant. Now how do you tell the pets?
Furry friends have no idea what that stick means that you’re holding and why you’re so darn happy. They feel the happiness and the love, and they also probably have a sneaky suspicion that something is up. While dogs or cats don’t require a formal announcement, this is the time when couples should begin thinking about changes that need to be made and how those changes affect the family pet.
If animals have been allowed to sleep on the family bed or on the furniture, will these habits continue once the baby is born? If you decide that the bed or furniture is a ‘no-pet’ zone post baby, work on making those changes now. Begin by creating other cuddly areas for animals near the sofa or close to the bed. Don’t suddenly force dogs to a bare floor or make drastic changes to their routine. Keep it cozy, and do it gradually and with care.
Use the early months (after the morning sickness has subsided) to also work on breaking any other bad habits that might not be safe around baby. Dogs (or cats) who are biters or who have been allowed to jump on their human companions should be trained away from these behaviors before bringing home baby. If necessary, schedule sessions with a professional trainer. When working with pets solo, always use positive—not negative—reinforcement to encourage good behaviors. Dogs especially love the praise from owners.
Nursery Rules and Regulations
When beginning the task of creating and designing the baby’s nursery, invite pets to come into the nursery and check things out. To discourage slumbering in baby’s bed, the Humane Society of the United States recommends applying double-sided sticky tape to the area and getting the animal accustomed to the sounds of crying or other baby noises that will be new to their ears. Allow furry friends to explore and be part of the changes. Make sure that dogs also understand which toys are for the baby and what toys are for the puppy. Keep the process positive but also be sure to set and carefully enforce nursery limitations and boundaries.
Bringing Baby Home
Once the baby has arrived, have a family member (or dad!) bring a blanket home that has the baby’s scent. Allow pets to sniff the blanket to acclimate to the smell of their new family member.
Animals may react differently to their new ‘sibling.’ Smaller dog breeds might be a little meek and shy, while other dogs may be quite accepting. Cats may walk the other way. Allow the animal to acclimate at their own speed. And never leave a baby unattended near an animal. The baby’s behaviors may also be stressful, and high-pitched crying may force your fuzzy friend to hide. Take the baby to another room if a pet appears agitated or frightened.
Adding a new baby to a family is a joyful occasion. With furry family members, however, introducing a new baby requires preparation and forethought. By slowly preparing the pets to a new baby’s arrival, parents can ease the stress of the situation and help create a joyful lifetime friendship between baby and their furry sibling.
Meet the Author:
Gwen Lewis is a lifestyle writer who lives in California. She has been in the makeup and fashion industry for years and loves writing and giving tips on all things beauty, health and lifestyle. In her free time she loves to stay active and has actually taken up surfing!