Introducing Your Pet to Your Baby

introducing your pet to your baby

Your pet is a cherished member of your family and should be included when big changes are happening. Here are some helpful tips to eliminate stress and concerns when you bring your newborn home. 

Start preparations before your baby arrives.

In all of the excitement of preparing for your new baby, you might not have thought about the impact this will have on your pets. There are steps you can and should take during pregnancy to make the transition easier for your pet.

Animals typically respond better to change when it is introduced slowly. 

Our pets rely on us and our ability to create consistency with their routines. Even a small change can create stress for them. Introducing your pet to the baby’s nursery space and any new furniture as it arrives, is one way to create a sense of inclusion and lower their stress. This also allows them time to adjust to the changes slowly. 

Establish boundaries for your pet early.

Determine whether your pet will have free reign of the home or not. If you plan to use gates as barriers to for naps, bedtime, and other purposes, start early. Give your pet plenty of time to acclimate to these changes before your baby’s arrival. You don’t want to lay your newborn down for a nap and have your dog barking at the unfamiliar gate.

Did you know that the cries and coos your baby makes can cause stress for your pet?

Your pet is used to usual noises in your home, but your baby’s new sounds are unfamiliar to them. Depending on how anxious your pet is, consider introducing baby sounds before your baby is born. You can find options available to stream online or free baby sound apps you can download on your phone. It is best to play them while your pet is eating or playing, as these are more excitable times. Start at a low volume to begin with and gradually increase the level. 

Introduce your pet to the scents associated with your baby. 

Let your pet smell the baby’s clothes and blankets that have been washed in their detergent. Use lotions, soaps and other items meant for the baby. Allow your pet to get used to these new smells. A special treat each time they come into contact with your baby’s things is a great way to create a positive association.   

Even the most well behaved pets may need a little training before your baby arrives. 

It can be difficult to balance the needs of your pet when caring for your newborn in the postpartum period. Training your pet using simple commands like “stay” and “lay down”, while you walk around with a doll baby can help them to understand the division of your attention. If your pet has always been a bit rambunctious, you may consider obedience school to ensure the safety of your child and pet.

Now that your pet is prepared, how should you introduce them to your new baby?

Start by introducing the baby’s actual scent to your pet. 

Before you bring your baby home, a family member can bring over an item of clothing or comfort that your baby used in the hospital. Allow your pet to take in that scent, and note their reaction. They should be curious and excited when smelling the new scent, never aggressive or destructive. This lets them adjust to your newborn’s smell. It may also help to reduce stress and curiosity when the baby is home.

Be sure to greet your pet the same way you always have.

No one likes to be treated differently by someone they love. Your pet is no exception. If your greeting them with hugs, treats, pets, etc, it is best if you continue to do this. Your pet can become frustrated if they feel neglected. Treating them with the same amount of affection they have grown accustomed to will help them to accept your baby more readily.

Keep their routines as consistent as possible. 

We know this is going to be tricky and that your baby requires a large portion of your time. However, if your dog is used to having a walk in the morning or just before bed, try to stick to this schedule as best you can. If your pet eats at a specific time, try not to disturb this either. Maybe your partner will step in and take on more of the pet duties than before. If you are feeling overwhelmed, call in a family member, friend, neighbor, pet sitter or even your postpartum doula to help you with some of your pet duties. 

Always supervise interactions with your pet and baby.

I know you love your pet, and they love you too. Regardless of how loving, kind and gentle they may be, always (ALWAYS) stay very close by while your baby and your pet interact. This is important even as your child grows to become more mobile. Creating boundaries for your child is important as well. Have a safe space where your pet can go, their crate or in a separate room, to avoid stress and any conflict with your child. Even the best pets can become defensive and upset if harrassed for too long without respite.

Your pet, just like your baby, is completely dependent on you. It is not uncommon for pets to become jealous if we do not take the time to prepare them, and to help them adjust before and after the baby arrives. Including your pet and taking your time to introduce new things will make the change easier for everyone. Before long, your child and your pet may grow to become the very best of friends.

For more like this check out Woof! Don’t Forget About Me!

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading