For many couples your first baby is actually of the “furry” “feathered” or “scaly” variety. We adore our pets and they become part of the family, but what happens when we have a baby? How do we integrate our pets and our new bundle of joy without hurting our pets’ feelings and possibly harming our infant? Here are some steps to make sure your baby is safe and your pets feel happy and loved when introducing them.
- Schedule A Check-Up At The Veterinarian. Make sure your pet is up on all their vaccinations and have them spayed or neutered (if you haven’t already) to calm them down. Make sure your pets’ nails are always trimmed. Talk to your vet about your concerns and ask for advice.
- Prepare A New Space For Both Your Baby And Pet. Start your pet’s introduction by setting up your baby’s crib, swing, vibrating chairs and all noisy things. This way, your pet can get accustomed to the new additions and you can establish boundaries around these areas right from the start. Set up a motion detector around the nursery and make it off limits to your pet. If you don’t want your pet jumping up on the bed or the furniture anymore, you have to practice well before you bring your baby home. Set up a space for your pet that is all their own. Put their bed, water bowl, favorite toys and some treats in a spot like the laundry room so they get used to spending time there. Make them feel special for having their own space.
- Hire A Trainer. Focus on leadership and hire a professional if you and your pet need a refresher course in discipline. Beware of your energy before and after you bring your baby home. Pets pick up on anxiety so remain calm, happy and in control.
- Play Pretend. Introduce your pets to new sights, smells and sounds. Carry around a baby doll and get used to training your animal not to jump up. Claim your baby’s scent by putting on baby powder, baby oil and other essential products you’ll be using once your baby arrives. Practice handling your pet differently, playfully poke and pull and reward your animal for keeping calm.
- Establish Attention Changes. Get your animal used to receiving less attention and resist lavishing them with extra cuddles and praise before your baby arrives. The reality is you won’t have as much time for them once your baby comes home and daily life will be unpredictable. Schedule random sessions of short playtime, affection and vary walking and feeding times to prevent your pet from getting used to a schedule. Practice changing your own daily routine as well, that way your pet isn’t alarmed when your baby needs to be fed, changed or it’s naptime. Wake up at different times and take occasional naps during the day.
- Make a Happy Homecoming. Before leaving the hospital, have a friend or family member begin the introduction by bringing a blanket home with your baby’s scent to let your pet investigate. If you have a dog, have someone take it on a walk and get all energy out before you arrive home with your baby. When you return home from the hospital, have someone else hold the baby while you greet your pet with a warm and calm welcome. After your initial greeting, you can invite your pet to sit next to you while you hold your baby and have your partner or friend supervise close by. Do not let your animal sniff your baby too closely at first. Have treats close by so you can reward your pet for appropriate behavior. Eventually, you can allow your pet to get closer and closer.
- Teach Your Baby. Once your baby reaches an appropriate age, you can introduce how to behave touch, play and respect your pet. Show them it is not ok to yank, pull or provoke an animal. Teach your child to be gentle and affectionate with all living creatures. Always supervise interactions and reward your child and animal for happy and healthy playtime together. And lastly, always have your camera on hand for all the cuteness that will be displayed once your baby and “furry” baby get along.
- Do Not Leave Your Baby Alone With Your Pet. No matter how much you trust your dog, cat or any other pet, how well they seem to be getting along with your baby or how docile their breed seems or their small size, animals are still unpredictable. Close doors to the nursery when you are in the other room even if it is just for a second to answer the phone, check on dinner or use the restroom. Once you set up healthy boundaries for your pets and baby, there will be countless adorable moments to enjoy.