Nothing shakes up routine like the addition of a new baby, and welcoming a little one home can be a stressful transition for your pet, too. But, here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be, and with the right considerations you can set up your growing family for a smooth introduction.
The key with any lifestyle change is to gradually introduce your pet to new smells, sights, and sounds so that baby coming home isn’t such a shock. Think about how your day-to-day life might change and start making schedule adjustments as soon as possible. Try to keep as consistent a schedule for feeding, playtime, and other activities with your pet– as you probably know, pets are creatures of habit and are comforted by the routine activity of your family.
Play recordings of a baby crying so your pet knows what to expect. You can take this even further by holding a baby doll around your house or going for a walk with the doll in the stroller so that your dog gets used to the new sounds and routines that a baby will bring.
Introduce your little one’s scent as soon as possible by bringing home a blanket, hat, or burp cloth from the hospital before baby comes home. If that’s not possible, you can use baby lotion or oil (or other baby-scented products) and let your pet get used to this new smell. It’s also a good idea to let your dog or cat explore and become familiar with baby’s stroller, car seat, swing, or any other new baby things that will be in your (and their) home.
Associate all these new baby things with positive rewards, like treats and praise, so that your dog or cat isn’t anxious or stressed about these new noises and smells. Remember that scolding your pet around these new things could mean that they connect punishment with baby when you want to create positive associations instead.
It’s important to establish boundaries and be consistent with enforcing them. Before baby arrives, you can train your pet to stay out of baby’s room or away from certain areas. You should also consider installing a gate or a screen door on baby’s room so you don’t have to worry about them disturbing your little one.
How your pet is supposed to behave while you are holding, feeding, or snuggling baby is an important boundary to establish. Make sure to keep feeding time for baby separate from your pet and do not allow them to eat any spilled baby food. Train your pet to stay calm and on the ground near you until you invite them on your lap – this way, you will be able to more easily control them as you are sitting and enjoying time with your newborn.
Finally, be proactive about your little one’s safety. Don’t ever leave baby alone with a pet. If for any reason you don’t completely feel comfortable with your pet around your baby, seek assistance from your veterinarian or pediatrician or locate a trainer – some even offer baby readiness training classes geared towards growing families that can help your dog relax and behave during this exciting time.
What steps did you take to introduce your furry family member to your little one? Share in the comments below.