WORDS: Ros McDonough, Hello Baby! Midwifery
Christmas is a time of year people often think about adding a pet to their family. While this should never be an impulse or surprise purchase, the summer months or school holidays can be a great time to get to know a new pet.
The RSPCA even has a fabulous guide to help decide what breed of dog might suit your family and to work through the decision-making process of dog ownership.
Having said that, we love our dogs and cats and they are very much a part of our family, but some couples worry about how their pets will respond when they bring a new baby home for the first time. In fact, this is a big reason why many people re-home their pets, however, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Understandably, we are concerned with how everyone will go when there is a change. Who is going to be ‘top-dog’?
There are some practical things we can do to make the transition easier for everyone!
- Practise walking your dog with the pram before baby arrives, so that you and your dog are both comfortable negotiating the pusher, before adding in the unpredictability of your baby!
- Find a sound grab of a baby crying and play it to your pets at a low volume. Gradually increase the volume over time so that your dog becomes acclimatised to the sound of a baby crying. This will help to reduce the anxiety of trying to soothe a crying baby and your stressed dog at the same time.
- Your dog or cat has an amazing sense of smell, so make sure you involve their nose. If you can, have your partner take some clothes home from hospital after you’ve given birth for your pet to smell, this will certainly smell different to the pregnant you. And offer your dog/cat a used baby blanket or clothes (or nappy) to smell before you bring the baby home too. They can start to know baby’s smell too.
- Mumma, when you come home after the birth, have your partner hold babe so that your pets can greet you without babe in your arms. They will have missed you and will want to say hello. You will certainly have a changed fragrance compared to pregnancy, according to your dog.
- If you’re worried about cats jumping onto baby’s bassinet, try quarantining a room for babe that’s out of bounds for heat-seeking cats (they’re attracted to babe’s warmth). Or try door guards prior to the birth to find one that works for you.
- Give your pets space to come and meet baby in their own time. Don’t try to force anything.
You know your pets best, but the general advice is to never leave babies and pets together unsupervised. If they can’t be actively supervised then they should be securely separated. Chat to your vet for some more specific advice, or check the resources on We Are Family | Introduction (nsw.gov.au)
I’ll leave you with a fun fact: Children of dog-owning families have a 13% lower chance of developing asthma than non-dog-owning families (Fall et al 2015)… having a dog is good for your gut microbiome! Who knew!!
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