Introducing Your Pet(s) and New Baby
When my husband and I got Grimm back in 2012, he was our first “baby.” He knew it, too. He got to sleep in the bed, go everywhere we went and got all the attention he could handle.
Fast forward to 2015 and I am breaking the news to Grimm that he is going to have a new, human, baby sister.
If you’re an animal parent, you have a bond with your pet where they understand you, right? Well, even if Grimm didn’t understand me, I think he knew something was up. The further into my pregnancy and the bigger I got, I noticed Grimm being particularly clingy towards me. He always wanted to lay with me with his head on my belly; he followed me everywhere and was just being noticeably sweeter. I wanted to make sure he continued this behavior when his little sister arrived, so I stared doing some research. Here are some of the best pieces of advice that worked for us:
- If your dog hasn't been to a basic obedience class, it's time to sign them up. Behavior like jumping up to greet you at the door might become an issue when you're eight months pregnant or carrying an infant in your arms.
- Give your pet(s) exposure to kids. Take your dog to the park to see how he reacts to babies from a distance. Grimm had been around babies before, but as an 80-pound dog, he needed to learn to be gentle. We used a combination of the “lay” command with lots of treats when any baby or toddlers were around.
- When you head to the hospital to deliver, you'll be gone for a couple of days. Do you know who will be feeding and walking your animals? Luckily, our family was able to keep Grimm for a few days, but if you don’t have that option, you can contact a pet sitter.
- When your baby arrives and you're recovering from childbirth, have Dad or Grandma take home one of your baby's first bodysuits or blankets so your pets can get used to your child's smell.
- When it’s time to come home, brace for lots of licks and sniffing! Greet your pet(s) first, since they’ve missed you and will probably give you an enthusiastic hello. Then, after they’ve chilled out, sit down with your baby and let your animal(s) sniff them to get acquainted.
When your child becomes mobile, there are a few other precautions to take:
- Keep your pet’s bowls on the counter when it's not mealtime. Once your child is mobile, she can create a mess of sloshed water or may sample the kibble. Plus, some animals get territorial around food.
- As your baby begins exploring with their hands, show her how to pet nicely. Your pet will thank you.
Prepping your family pets for a baby can be a huge help, but you know your own situation best. Think through your daily routine with your pet(s) and determine what will work.
I will say that now at 10 months old, my daughter and Grimm are quite the pair. She loves to crawl around while he chases her and gives kisses, and Grimm loves when she feeds him scraps from the high chair. I should also note, Grimm still sleeps in the bed (all 80 pounds of him), still goes everywhere we go, and while he has to share some of his attention now, I know he doesn't mind.
As always, if you have questions concerning your children, contact a healthcare professional.