Bringing a new baby home may be one of the most exciting times of your life: making sure everything is baby-proofed, the nursery is clean, and finally getting some alone time with your baby. Many times, however, people overlook the process of acclimating their pets to a new addition. When introducing a new baby to your pets, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, before baby comes home, let your pets go into the nursery and sniff things out. This is an important factor in letting your pets get used to the sights and smells of the nursery. Also, your pet is used to being the center of your attention – and a new baby will be taking much of that attention away. Slowly acclimate your pet to the change by decreasing the amount of time you spend with your pet. If your pet is more attached to the mother-to-be, encourage other family members to create a bond with the pet. Dramatically decreasing the time you spend with your pet can cause stress, as the animal will feel its being punished.
Do a trial run with another family that has a baby. With your friend’s permission, let your pet sniff the baby and remain in the room while the baby plays. Making the experience calm and fun is important, so the pet learns that being gentle and calm with a baby is the correct behavior.
If your pet is not spayed or neutered, make an appointment with a vet to have this procedure done. Pets that have been fixed are less likely to show aggression to babies.
If your pet has behavioral issues, enrolling in a training class is highly recommended. Pets naturally want to please their owners, and sometimes just a few hints from a certified trainer will help correct any problems. If you have a cat that likes to jump on the baby’s furniture, installing double stick tape on the edges will discourage jumping.
Before baby arrives, get your pet accustomed to baby-related noises by playing clips of babies crying, using the rocker, and starting the baby swing. Getting your pet used to as much as possible before your baby arrives is important.
When your baby is born, have a family member or friend take home one of the used blankets for your pet to smell. Many families will put this blanket in the bed with the pet. When it’s time to bring baby home, have someone take the new addition into the house, and spend some one on one time with your pet for a few minutes before introducing it to the baby. When you introduce the pet, be sure to have treats on hand to reward the pet for good behavior. The main point is to associate the baby and good behavior with rewards.
Most pets will quickly adjust to new family members. Make sure to spend one-on-one time with your pet after the baby arrives, as this not only helps the pet know that it is still a valued member of the family, but will also help you relax.
These are just a few suggestions to help introduce your pets to new additions. There are many resources, including animal behaviorists that can help with further issues.