Help Your Fur Baby Adjust To Your Human Baby

newborn toddler Jan 14, 2021
dog meeting baby

If you are like many people, your first baby was a fur baby. It was love at first sight and you've had many happy years together. Or, perhaps it has just been a few happy months of dog or cat bliss. 

Either way, the time has come for a human baby to join your family and you may be wondering what to expect, how to prepare your pet, and how to coach your pet (and eventually your baby too) through the changes that come along a baby.

It will take time and focused attention on your part, but the payoff can be well worth it! Dogs and children often become fast friends, and even cats can become an adoring fan of your sweet baby.

Prepare your pet

Remember, your dog or cat is used to living in a child-free home. The looks, smells, energy, and overall feel of your home will change as you bring home your baby and watch her grow from a newborn into a curious toddler.

There are a few easy ways you can help prep your pet for this life change:

The nursery. Let your pet explore the completed nursery before you bring home your baby. For cats in particular, it can be helpful to gently rub a hand towel or t-shirt over your cat's head and then rub the nursery furniture with the same towel or t-shirt. For both cats and dogs, if they have been used to napping in your spare-room-turned-nursery, it is important to encourage them to sleep elsewhere and seeing the door shut at least a few weeks before your baby comes home. This is an easier transition for your pet than being suddenly kicked out by a tiny, crying baby human. 

The noises. Babies are noisy! They cry, wimper, squall, grunt, and burp. For a pet used to a quiet, calm household, these sounds can take some getting used to hearing. Many families find it helpful to play baby noises from time to time during the weeks and months before your baby arrives. Your dog or cat will still need to adjust to your particular baby's noises, but they won't be startled by hearing a baby cry for the first time ever. You can find baby noises on YouTube!

The scents: Babies come with lots of new scents as well. You may use a special detergent for your baby's clothes, or purchase a new lotion. Some diapers have strong scents as well. It can be helpful to put some baby lotion on yourself, wash a shirt in the new detergent, or let your pet sniff a (clean, ha!) diaper before your baby is born. This way, your dog or cat will already be used to these scents when he meets your baby. 

Meeting baby: when your pet meets your baby for the first time, make it calm and casual. Slowly sit down with your baby in a neutral area; avoid your pet's favorite napping chair. Your pet will likely want to sniff the new arrival, and that is fine! He may then wander off or may be curious and stick around. Be sure you have a safe place to place your baby when she is not being held that is out of the reach of your pet.

Baby Is On The Move!

While your baby is young and not yet mobile, your dog or cat will get used to the idea of another human in the house and watching their original humans love and care for this new, tiny human. 

As time goes on, that tiny human will grow and become both mobile and curious. 

The food. Pet food bowls are like magnets for curious babies and toddlers. Pets are often quite protective of their food, and you want to limit the risk of a potential feeding time clash. Plus, dry food is a choking hazard for mobile babies and young toddlers. For cats, this adjustment can be as simple as moving their bowl up to a high place that your child cannot reach. For dogs, it is important to teach your child that the dog's bowls are a no-no. It may be helpful to feed your dog while your child is safely in the high chair or otherwise distracted.

The toys. Baby toys and pet toys often look a lot a like, and are equally attractive to both! It can be tough to keep them separated, but may be worth the effort at times. It all depends how you feel about your teething child using your dog's slobbery toys as a teether :)  Not to mention, if your pet is particularly possessive of a toy, it is a good idea to keep that one out of reach outside of purposeful play time for your pet.

The touching. Babies and toddlers are curious and generally love animals. Plus, they are generally impulsive and not always gentle. This combo means it is crucial you teach your little one that she should not grab or pull on your pet's ears, nose, or tail. Some dogs and cats are very laid back and tolerant of rough and tumble small children, but others are easily irritated. 

A safe space. Just like humans can get overstimulated and need a quiet place to chill out, the same goes for pets. If you have a dog, keep their crate as their child-free sanctuary. It is the place they know they can go if they need a break from little hands. It is important to teach your child that the crate is a no-no. If you have a cat, you may not need to do anything as most cats are very good at finding a hideout when needed. But, depending on the layout of your house you may need to make sure you have an easily accessible place your cat can escape to that is not accessible to your child. This may be a tall cat condo, underneath the couch, or anywhere else your cat finds cozy.

Wrap-Up

Bringing home a baby is always and adjustment, but it can be a little more so when you have a pet. Don't be scared! With a little time and effort, you'll soon have a happy human + fur family.

If you have a dog and have concerns about your dog's behavior, don't be afraid to reach out to a qualified trainer. The sooner, the better! Having a well behaved dog is a win for you, your baby, and your dog. 

If you have a cat, know that your cat will do its thing. Your cat may grow to love your baby or may just tolerate him. Either way, your cat will adjust before you know it. 

A word of caution: while the popular advice is to never leave your baby or toddler alone with a pet, this is not always super realistic. This is why teaching your child very early on what is okay and what is not okay regarding your pets is crucial for her safety. If you have even the slightest doubt about your pet's interactions with your child or your child's ability to safely interact with your pet, it is worth the extra time and effort to take the time to separate them should you need to step out of the room for a minute. Harmful encounters are rare, but do happen and can have disastrous consequences. Before you know it, your child will have grown and be old enough to be safely unsupervised around your pets.

Enjoy watching your child's relationship with your pet grow and blossom. There are so many perks to having a pet, and one of the best is watching that bond develop. 

Are you ready to make sleep a thing at your house, but feel stuck or unsure how? Working with parents 1-1 to take the stress out of baby and toddler sleep is my joy.

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