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The Ultimate Guide To Introducing Your Pet to Your New Baby

So, you’re having a baby! Everyone keeps congratulating you on your FIRST baby. But let’s be honest - you already have a baby. If you’re like me, your first child knew your next child was coming even before you did. My dog, Pop, followed me around the house, sat in front of the shower, and at the foot of my bed for weeks before I knew I was pregnant. But what do you do? How do you prepare your fur baby for a squeaky, clean new baby?

First, let’s clarify a big myth: You do not need to get rid of your pet. Pets are often considered an integral part of a family. They provide companionship, love, and a sense of security. It's essential to prepare them for the arrival of a new family member. Proper introductions can lead to a peaceful and joyful coexistence.

Here are a few of the benefits:

1. Strengthening the Family Unit: Pets are integral parts of your family. Introducing the baby and pet to one another reinforces the idea that they are family members and the family is strengthening, not falling apart.

2. Reducing Anxiety: Some pets are calming and protective and will help new parents and babies. Pop is an emotional support dog, and when my daughter came home, he alerted my partner when my stress levels were too high. It also just felt great to give him some cuddles.

3. Building Lifelong Bonds: Growing up with a pet can teach children empathy, responsibility, and love for animals.

Okay, Julienne, this is great – SO NOW WHAT?!

YOU NEED A PLAN, GET PREPARED: I know you’ve been watching TikTok and Instagram, where you’ve seen babies sitting in kennels or parents letting babies lick their faces. My favorite is the video where the cat threw up after smelling the newborn baby (a dog would never). Do your research! I did hours of research. I talked to my aunt and uncle, former military Marines who’ve owned over a dozen dogs. I talked to my aunt, a pediatrician, and introduced their (somewhat unruly dog) to both of their kids. I talked to Pop’s veterinarian. I looked up certified articles. I reached out to my daughter’s soon-to-be pediatrician – anyone who would talk to me, I talked back.

The Do/Don't List We Swear by:

Do: Keep your pet’s routine. Keep your pet's routine as consistent as possible. While the baby will require a lot of attention, ensure your pet still receives quality time, walks, and playtime. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While many people want to help the new parents and baby, enlist some of your loved ones to care for your fur baby. My neighbors walked Pop twice for the first two weeks of my daughter’s life. I still ask for their help when my partner is out of town!

Do reinforce basic obedience training: Make sure your pet is well-versed in basic commands like "sit," "stay," and "leave it." This will be invaluable in ensuring safety and control around the baby. Don't allow free range in the baby’s room: Do not allow your dog to jump or sleep on any baby furniture. If your pet seems too interested in these spaces, constantly redirect them to their space

Do establish boundaries: Create designated spaces for your pet and the baby. This can help maintain order and reduce stress for your pet. Don’t allow your baby and dog to share all spaces. Your dog and baby deserve their own spaces, and it’s actually what’s safest. Do not let your baby/toddler play around with your pet’s food or bed – this can cause your pet to feel territorial and react defensively.

Do familiarize your pet with baby smells: Before the baby comes home, bring home a piece of clothing or a blanket that the baby has used to familiarize your pet with the new scent. Rub baby lotion or powder on your hands so your dog will associate a positive connection with the scent. Even allow the pet in the new nursery or baby room to familiarize with the new layout of everything.

Do supervised/gradual introductions: For the first introduction, keep your pet on a leash or in a secure space to ensure safety and control. Over time, decrease the interaction distance between your pet and the baby if possible. Don't leave your baby and pet unsupervised: The videos/TikTok of dogs watching babies can seem adorable. That said, pets can be naturally curious, which cannot be controlled when no adults are present.

Do monitor body language: Pay attention to your pet's body language. If they seem stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable, remove them from the room and try again later. Don't avoid professional help: If your pet displays concerning behavior or signs of aggression, consult a professional pet behaviorist or trainer.

Do make some time for your pet. Schedule undivided time with your pet. As a new parent, finding time away from your baby to feel recharged is essential. Don’t overpromise, and don’t feel guilty. You are figuring it all out, and caring for two living things is a significant switch. Commit to a 30-minute walk, but don't beat yourself up even if you can’t. Try again tomorrow.

You Got This, Mama!

Introducing newborn babies to pets is a process that requires patience, understanding, and careful planning. Taking proactive steps and ensuring a smooth transition can build a strong foundation for a loving and harmonious relationship between your pet and your child. Remember that every pet is unique. Pop relishes the times his little sister goes out of town, and we have the house to ourselves. Regardless, adapting your approach to suit your pet's personality and needs is the key to success. With time, effort, and love, your family can thrive with furry and human members living together in harmony.


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