Pets and Babies: Adjusting Your Pet to Your New Baby
Having a new baby is a very transitional time in any woman’s life and is also a period of adjustment in terms of career, physical and mental health as well as relationships. While a lot of attention is often paid to the effect of new motherhood on relationships with partners, family and friends, there is also a period of adjustment for pets. If you have had a pet prior to becoming a parent, care will need to be taken to ensure that they are able to adjust to your new life as well. Because your pet will reside in the same space as your child, some steps should be taken to ensure adjustment:
1. Consult a Doctor: Before your baby arrives, it would be best to speak to both a pediatrician and a veterinarian. A pediatrician will be able to advise you on what practices are best for your baby and which could be potentially harmful. For example, pets with fur might need to be kept away from babies due to possible allergies. A doctor might also recommend a time period to wait before interaction with a newborn and a pet should be allowed. A veterinarian will be able to advise you on the specific pet or breed you have and how to proceed. Some pets are known to be a safety hazard for small children while some are known to not be. A veterinarian will be able to advise you on the handling of pet fur, toys, waste and so on to ensure that your home is conducive for your baby.
2. Define Boundaries: After guidelines have been prescribed by both your pediatrician and veterinarian, it is up to you to secure your home for your baby, preferably before you give birth. This includes creating pet-free zones if you intend to keep your pet and child separated and putting barriers in place to prevent wandering by the pet. You should also look into keeping things such as pet food and toys out of the reach of your baby and deciding ahead of time when and under what circumstances tour baby and pet will be allowed to interact. Having these set up and decided upon ahead of time will save you a world of worry moving forward.
3. Initiate Contact: if and when you are comfortable with your pet interacting with your baby, you should make sure that this is done under careful supervision. This might include short, supervised interactions that increase as the child gets older. Make sure that an adult is watching the child and that they are not left alone with the pet until you feel confident. As your child gets older, they should be taught proper behavior when interacting with pets and safety measures such as not putting hands in the mouths of dogs and so on.
Navigating a new household structure with both a child and a pet can be tricky but with the right foresight and planning, it can be executed for the good of all. Follow the above steps to adjust your pet to your child.