When you're expecting a baby, everyone in the household must make adjustments and compromises, including the family pets. It's important to have a smooth transition as baby and pet get to know each other. This process is more critical for pets who have never been around small children before, but even canine and feline veterans may need some brushing-up when a new little person enters the family. Here are ten tips to help you introduce your baby to your pet:
1. Maintain control. If you have a dog, make sure training is in order. If your dog is prone to jumping on you as you walk into a room or jumping on your lap as you sit down on the couch, it's time to set some boundaries. Your lap will soon contain a baby, so make sure your pet is in control. It's great to lap-share, but it must be on your terms, and it must be safe for everyone involved in the cuddling session.
2. Don't go in green. Especially if your pet has not been around babies before, it's important for him to get used to the sounds and smells of babies. If you have friends with babies, invite them over! Exposing your pet to the antics of tiny humans will be an advantage moving forward.
3. Bring on the goods. A new baby requires lots of stuff, and this can all be a bit scary to your dog or cat. Make sure your cat doesn't make the pre-baby empty crib his napping place, and it's best to activate the motorized cradle swing in advance so your dog doesn't bark at it incessantly once baby is relaxing in it. If you make sure to introduce your pet to the baby paraphernalia before the baby arrives, it will be one less thing to worry about.
4. Stroll. If you plan to walk your dog with a stroller, practice first. It may seem simple, but walking a dog and pushing a stroller can be a tough combo. It might look a bit odd to walk an empty stroller around your neighborhood with your dog (I did it and got some looks), but you will be so happy you did. Much better to get the leash tangled in the wheels before there's a baby in the stroller.
5. Talk it out. If you have a name for your baby, use it in conversation. Your pets are listening. Dogs are thought to understand about 165 words, and cats between 25 and 35, so if your baby's name is introduced early, they can incorporate it into their vocabulary and become more familiar with it.
6. Use their keen sense of smell to your advantage. If you have a lotion or oil you plan to use on your baby's skin, apply it to your own skin in the weeks leading up to your baby's birth. Your pets will recognize it and feel more accepting of the new little person.
7. Give your pet a security blanket. If you have the opportunity, bring one of your baby's hospital blankets home to your pet before you come home with the baby. Your pet will be able to smell the baby before she even comes home, which will help your pet feel more secure.
8. Decide on a pet sitter. Who will take care of your pets while you are giving birth? It's a great idea to line up a family member or professional pet sitter to step in while you are at the hospital. I have been "on-call" for several expecting clients in the past, and it's a pleasure to hop into action at the most exciting moment of their lives. But a word of caution: don't send a stranger in. Make sure your pet is familiar with the person providing care during your absence so you can keep stress levels down.
9. Keep it casual. An elaborate presentation of the baby to the pet is not necessary or beneficial. Bring your baby home with minimal pomp and circumstance, and dive right into the routine you intended. Your pet will be much more relaxed if baby is not presented as an exciting new toy. Try to keep visitors to a minimum for the first few days. If you have visitors, don't throw a huge "welcome baby" party in your home. The extra chaos will only cause stress for your pet.
10. Maintain status quo. A new family member will naturally throw a monkey wrench into the routine. Do your best to maintain your pet's routine. If a morning walk is the norm, then keep that habit up. If your cat is fed in the evening at a certain time, try to maintain that. Your pets will feel more secure and comfortable if their expectations are being met, so they will be more apt to adjust to the new addition. And that just makes life easier for you!
All interactions with pets and babies or small children should be closely supervised, regardless of how much preparation you've done. Until you see your baby and pet interact on a regular basis, you'll need to observe and make adjustments. Regardless of how interactive a relationship you want your pets and baby to have, always remember that you dictate the parameters of the relationship. By protecting all parties involved, we set our families up for a lifetime of happiness and fun. Pets and babies together could not be a better, more adorable, combo! Let's make sure we give everyone the best opportunity to succeed together as a larger, better family.
This article, written by me, originally appeared as a contributor post on Brie Brie Blooms. It has been posted here with minor changes with permission.