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For many pet owners the pet is their first child. So when you know that you are expecting a baby, one of your concerns is bound to be about how your pet will react to the new member of your household. As with everything else, a little time and effort can help. Planning well ahead of your baby’s arrival will ensure that your house pet makes the smooth transition to living in a house where the focus is on a wailing new born.
Prepare your Pet before your Baby arrives
Once your baby arrives, you will not be able to spend as much time with your pet as you previously did. And this can be very traumatizing for your pet, especially if the change is sudden. This is why getting the pet accustomed to the imminent changes before they actually happen can help all of you settle easily into the new routine. Here are some things to keep in mind while preparing pets for a new baby:
1. Smells and Sounds
Introduce your pet to the new sounds and smells that will come along with a newborn. You can do this by playing recordings of a crying baby and bringing in baby stuff such as lotions. Also, before you bring home baby from the hospital, get your partner to get baby’s blankets and dresses home for your pet to get used to the new smell.
2. Carry Around a Doll
Swaddle a doll or a toy and carry it around as you would carry a baby. To reinforce a positive association with the baby, reward your pet for good behavior in the presence of the baby (doll). This will include not jumping all over the person carrying the baby or pulling the blanket used to wrap baby in.
3. Getting Used to the Stroller
When you have a dog for a pet, you are likely to go for daily walks. So the next time you leash your dog and walk it, push along a stroller so your dog gradually gets used to walking next to it.
Implement a New Routine
1. Changes in Behavior
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, with children even a simple scratch or a playful nip can have long-lasting consequences.
2. Mark the Space
Demarcate the areas that you would like to be pet-free after the baby is home. This would include the baby’s changing table, cot or crib, and the play pen. Make it clear to your pet that it is not to intrude in these spaces at any time.
When your Baby arrives
When introducing a baby to pets, it is important to take it slow and easy. A positive and non-threatening environment can help with this. One way of doing this is to have one member of your family welcome the pet first and wait till your pet is calm. Then, slowly introduce the pet to the baby and let it investigate. Be sure to reward any good behavior and always keep dogs on a leash and a close watch on cats while they are near the baby. And do not forget to spend some quality time with your pet each day even after baby arrives. As little as five minutes can work wonders for your pet.
Pros of Having a Pet
There is quite a bit of research to indicate that having a pet at home is, in fact, good for your child. Here’s why:
- The presence of pets has been found to make children healthier and prevent them from getting allergies as an adult. This is thought to be due to the bacteria that is present in cats and dogs which can fortify the human immune system.
- Analysts also found that children who lived in homes with dogs got fewer respiratory infections compared to others.
- The mental health benefits and happiness derived from having pets is manifold.
- Walking the dog daily is one way of ensuring you and your child get some bit of exercise each day without fail.
Cons of having a Pet
Pets are also vulnerable to jealousy or feelings of neglect. So, when your baby makes an entry into your home, there are some risks that come with it.
- Cats and dogs can be nasty and scratch or nip if they are feeling unhappy too much attention to the new bay or something similar.
- Babies can get over-friendly with pets and a loving lick from the animal can transmit infectious stuff like fecal matter on to the mouth or eyes of your child.
- A cat that urinates indoors or on your baby’s toys is a health hazard. Felines are also vulnerable to toxoplasmosis infections which can then be transmitted to humans.
9 Tips for Keeping the Child Safe around the Pet
Animals can be unpredictable no matter how long they have been living with you. Since babies are bound to make unpredictable movements and also resort to unruly behavior as they achieve milestones, it is important to keep a close watch on both child and pet when they are together. The following are some safety tips to remember:
- Never leave your pet alone with your child, especially till your child is at least aged seven.
- Even if you must leave the room for a few seconds to fetch a bottle or diaper, take either the baby or the pet with you.
- Keep pet food and medications far from the reach of young children.
- If you have a garden and your pets roam there freely, be sure to check for poop and dispose of it before you let your child play there.
- Do not leave your baby on the floor when dogs and cats are nearby.
- If the back door to your home has a dog or cat flap, see if your baby fits in through that. There are plenty of instances of babies crawling out to freedom through these openings!
- If your pet shows any hostility or aggressiveness towards the baby then you should immediately put a stop to such behavior.
- When it comes to dogs and baby’s safety, any time you feel that your dog is behaving strangely, seek expert advice without delay.
- If you are putting the baby in a swing for naps or playtime, be wary of your pets. They can get excited by moving objects and act out.
These are just some handy suggestions to ensure that pets and newborn babies live together in peace and harmony. The individual temperament of your baby and your pet will, in reality, determine if they can get along or not.
By following these suggestions and being proactive about recognizing and tackling any problems that are likely to arise when babies and pets live together, you can ensure that they have a long-term and healthy relationship. And, as your baby grows up, keep emphasizing that pets are 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.