Tips to successfully and safely introduce a newborn baby in a home with pets
How can I prepare for bringing a baby home with a dog?
We have two small dogs at home and they were not usually around children. We wanted to do everything we could to try to prepare them for our new arrival. We bought a baby doll and called it ‘baby’ around the dogs, though they were not interested, and we played YouTube videos of babies crying in order to prepare them for those sounds.
Because our dogs were used to sleeping in our bedroom, it was important that we start transitioning them to a crate in the evenings prior to the baby coming home. This is especially important with cats as well, to transition them out of the room where the baby will sleep as the cats’ jumping skills could land them in the bassinet. You can prepare your home by adding dog gates or baby gates between areas to prevent intrusion when you need time with the baby.
After the baby was born, we sent home a blanket that the baby had been wrapped in, so the dogs would be familiar with her scent.
Caring for a newborn is a big responsibility, and taking care of pets as well can feel overwhelming during this period. If possible, lean on family and friends to help dog sit while you are adjusting to your newest addition. When people visit, ask for some help. If they can play with your pet or take them for a walk, it can be a load off of your shoulders.
My dog is very sweet—can I introduce him or her to the baby and then put them together to take pictures?
Whenever I see cute videos of puppies or dogs with babies, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Who wouldn’t want their pets and their child to get along that well?
The reality is, there is no way to know how an animal will act with your new baby or child—you always have to be cautious. A very slow introduction of your baby to your pet is important. One way to do this is to allow the pet to sniff clothes that are off the baby first; followed by a blanket wrapped around the baby; and if all goes well, try to have the animal sniff the baby’s foot while a sock is on.
Every time the animal is near the baby, you must have your eyes on both, and I’d recommend a leash or harness on the pet, so you could easily pull them away if necessary. It is best to do these interactions with at least two people, that way while you focus on watching the baby and the pet, the person holding the pet has the ability to pull away if needed. Keep your baby safe while your pet is nearby with him or her on your lap or in your arms. Animals can react in unpredictable ways in new settings and the safety of your baby is the most crucial.
Are there benefits to having a pet at home with a newborn?
Yes! Pets bring an incredible amount of joy and love into a home. They can be stress relievers, professional snugglers, and at times feel like therapists! While trying to balance caring for your newborn and your pet may initially be a challenge, it is totally worth it.
There can be medical benefits as well. A recent study shows that exposure to dogs or cats as an infant is associated with fewer allergic diseases as the child grows, and showed no increase in allergic disease. Another study, which followed children younger than 1 who had a cat or a dog in the household, determined that these children had fewer lung and ear infections than those children not exposed to animals.