Preparing pets for baby
Introducing your newborn to your fur baby doesn’t have to be daunting, but preparation is key. Here are some tips on how to welcome your new family member home to wagging tails or contented purrs!
We’ve all seen the adorable videos on YouTube. The family Labrador snuggling its head protectively against the newborn baby’s cute little tummy and mom and dad almost crying with ‘cuteness overload’.
It’s the perfect family picture, so how do you get it? Dogs and cats and babies can be firm friends forever but they will need a little help initially. The good news is, that preparing your pets for baby is well worth the effort.
According to the journal Pediatrics, researchers say that babies who grow up in homes with a furry friend are less likely to get sick than children who live pet-free. Pets also help children develop nurturing and social skills and can aid their self-esteem.
In fact, studies of school children have shown that pet owners are not only more popular with their peers but seem to have more empathy as well. Plus, walking the dog is a great way for the whole family to keep fit and spend time together.
The rule for introducing cats to your baby is simple, allow your cat to observe your new family member from a distance and it will eventually approach when it’s ready.
With dogs, you want to make sure your pooch is already well trained so it obeys commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’.
Overall the No. 1 decree when it comes to pets and babies is ‘never leave them alone together’. Even if you are sure they are soul mates, it’s still best to supervise all contact between your pet and baby and always be close enough to intervene if trouble arises.
Most experts agree that patience is vital when it comes to finding a new rhythm and balance in the home. “My advice to new moms is … it gets so much easier a few months in,” says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang from pet website Pawcurious. “Pets have short memories. Do what you can when you can, and as your life gets easier, promise yourself to get back into a routine for your pet.”
She also suggests getting someone else to help you in the initial stages. “Assign your spouse or another family member the duty of making sure your pet receives extra attention and care,” she says. “It’s good bonding for them, too.”
Mom of one, Nikki, says it’s important your pet associates the baby with positive experiences. “Benny, our Boxer, had been ‘our baby’ for five years before we had our daughter Lily so I was really worried about jealousy,” she says. “We went for long walks with both of them together and we rewarded Benny for good behavior when he was with Lily so he didn’t feel left out.”
New mom Amelia believes preparation is the key. “We purchased a special basinet that had a netted cover over it so the cat couldn’t jump on top of our daughter Poppy,” she recalls. “We also let Sunny have a good sniff around all the baby’s nursery and furniture before we brought Poppy home so he could familiarize himself with the room.”
Of course every pet and family is different so you need to do what works for you but for added inspiration, here are a few tried and tested tips to ensure your furry friend and little one develop a YouTube worthy bond.
Before baby arrives
- Start setting boundaries for sleeping arrangements. If your pet usually shares your bed now is the time to move them elsewhere
- It may sound silly but practice walking your dog with an empty stroller so they get used to the different pace and walking alongside a new object
- Bring an article of your baby’s clothing or a blanket home from hospital for your pet to sniff so they become familiar with your newborn’s scent
- Dogs and cats can be sensitive to a baby’s crying. Playing a recording of a baby’s cry early on can get them used to the new noise
After baby arrives
- When baby comes home, have mom go into the house alone first to greet them and give them a big hug so they don’t feel neglected
- Do not place your baby on the floor at first, and never hold them over your dog’s head which could encourage jumping
- Try not to let your pet lick your little one, it’s unsanitary and may be a prelude to biting
- Toddlers need to respect your pet’s space as well so make sure they know from an early age how to be gentle.