In most families, pets are your first “children”. They are members of your family and want to be included in every step you take with expanding your family. Introducing pets to newborns can be tricky, but can also be a lot of fun! It’s important to recognize any signs or symptoms, and have a plan laid out for how your newborn and pet will first meet. There are some helpful hints to aid with a smooth transition from hospital to home while adding your pets into the mix!
The transition process can be a little scary. How will your pet react? Will they be jealous and aggressive, or caring and protective? You know your pet and you probably know how they react to different situations. It’s important to be proactive about the introduction. Bringing home a blanket or baby cap that has the baby’s scent on it. This allows your pet to get adjusted to your newborn’s scent and helps your pet remain calm when you first bring your baby home. A familiar scent will further encourage your pet to welcome your new baby as a part of the “pack”.
Being present for the introduction is key to a successful meeting. Though you know your pet, you cannot assume that everyone will get along right away. The main goal is to ensure that your pet associates the experience as a positive one. Be as close to your pet as possible during the first few meetings to reassure them that your newborn is a welcome new member of the family!
Don’t Forget About Playtime
Newborns are a lot of work, but this doesn’t mean your time with your “first child” should dwindle. Try to maintain your same routine as best as possible. Early morning walks might not be the first thing you want to do after late night feedings, but dad, a neighbor or a relative can step in until you and baby have a schedule down. Your pet still wants to feel needed and acknowledged. The transition can be hard, but you will be able to make it work!
Reward good behavior!
Positive reinforcement is a great tool to show how you want your pet to behave around your newborn. If they are gentle, but a little curious, that’s ok! Give them treats or lots of pets to ensure they are doing a good job. Sometimes, while feeding, your pet might become intrigued or “want to help,” especially if the baby is slightly fussy. They just want to know what’s going on.
Also, it’s important to watch out for bad behavior during this time. If your pet shows signs of aggression or becomes too involved, scold your pet as soon as possible. It is better to reprimand them when they are in the act of a bad behavior so they understand what they are doing wrong.
During this transition time, it is important that your baby is always safe. If your pet is showing signs of aggression, keep them apart until the adjustment period is over. You can crate your pet or use a baby gate to keep them separate. It’s important for your pet to still feel wanted and to make sure you maintain their schedule while balancing a newborn and building a routine with them. This can seem daunting, but just pay attention to their interactions and behavior and respond accordingly. Hopefully everything goes smoothly during your introductions, and your “first born” loves their new brother or sister!
For more helpful tips on introducing your pet to new baby, check out the ASPCA guide to dogs and babies.