Bringing home a baby is one of the great joys in a family’s life. It goes without saying that it’s a life changing event. Thankfully, there is a wealth of information about raising this new tiny human and getting through the early days of their life. However, you can’t find a lot about how to prepare your four-legged family member for the new arrival.
Let this be your guide to help you figure this major turning point in the life of your pet.
Begin to plan before the baby arrives
1. Once you find out you’re pregnant, it is essential to get the right medical tests done on your pet as soon as possible. The pet should be dewormed and have a stool test come back negative, because some parasites can be dangerous to humans. Vaccines must be up to date and the pet’s nails trimmed before the baby comes home.
2. Give your pet enough time to adjust to the new changes in the house by unpacking new furniture and baby gear early on. To truly step into your dog’s shoes, sit on the floor in the nursery and observe everything that has changed. For instance, as humans, we perceive a baby crib but a pet will see a square thing with squeaky wheels.
3. One of the best practices is that you can begin simulating life with a new baby at home before the arrival of the new one. Walk around the house with a swaddled doll or a rolled up blanket while interacting with your pet. We know it sounds funny but it will help model behaviour for your pet and they will get used to some attention shifts. When taking the dog out for a walk, bring along your new baby stroller and have the doll in the seat. To reinforce a positive association with the baby, reward your pet for good behavior in the presence of the doll. This will include not jumping all over the person carrying the baby or pulling the cloth in which the doll is wrapped in.
4. To accustom your dog to the forthcoming baby, you can also play clips of babies crying on YouTube. It will also be a good idea to expose them to new baby smells, like lotions.
The first meeting is everything
1. When introducing the baby to the pet, it is important to take it slow and easy. Before bringing your baby into your home for the first time, introduce her scent to your pet.
2. When you come home, let one member of your family welcome the pet first and wait till your pet is calm.
3. Then, slowly introduce the pet to the baby and let it investigate. Ensure that you reward any good behavior and always keep dogs on a leash and a close watch on cats while they are near your little one.
4. You could let your pet approach the baby on the couch. If things get too excited, rather than disciplining the dog or cat, take the baby away so the pet can calm down.
Getting used to the new routine
1. If your pet is prone to playfully jumping on people or barking, teach them not to do it anymore. Though much of your pet’s behavior may be harmless to adults, the case is not the same with babies.
2. Determine the areas in the house that you would like to be pet-free after the baby arrives. This would include the areas around the baby’s changing table and their playpen among others. Make it clear to your pet to not intrude in these spaces at any time.
3. Do not forget to spend some quality time with your pet each day even after the baby arrives. Ideally, their exercise and general daily schedules should be in place before the baby comes home.
4. Parents should discourage the pet from licking the baby. The bacteria in their mouths might cause harm to the baby as their immune systems aren’t yet fully developed.
5. When your baby is old enough to crawl or walk, teach them to stay away from your pet's toys, food bowls and litter boxes. Child safety gates can be helpful to maintain this.
6. Keep emphasizing to the baby that the pet is to be treated gently and with respect at all times. Watch how your child is with your pet and gently correct them if they are doing something wrong.
7. Babies often make erratic movements, which may frighten the pet, leading them to act unpredictably. Hence, you should always be present when your baby and pet are in the same room.
It’s important to understand that you can provide both your pet and your child with the love that they need, but not necessarily in the same place at the same time. By following these suggestions and being proactive about recognizing and tackling any problems that are likely to arise when the baby and the pet live together, you can ensure that they have a long-term and healthy relationship. If you know someone who has a pet and expecting a little one, feel free to share this Vkaire guide with them.