June 4, 2012: Bringing Home Baby

~ by Mary Galvano

As a new parent, one of the biggest challenges we faced was bringing home a new baby to our beloved pet. As a matter of fact, the first night my husband and I brought home our new baby girl our dog looked at us during the baby’s night cries as if she was saying to us, “Are you kidding me?” No matter how much you plan ahead, the addition of a new family member may be very difficult for your pet.

Your pet was your first “baby” and is used to being the center of attention. It’s understandable that he or she may experience sibling rivalry when you introduce a new human baby into your household. One way that has helped my husband and I with these feelings is finding ways to get our dog involved in the care of our baby. Yes, your pet can be involved. When I am holding the baby I invite my dog to come sit next to me and I call my dog to come when I pick up the baby saying the baby’s name out loud to get my dog involved in the action. Walks are another great way for your pet to be involved. When the baby is in the stroller my dog starts twirling and running towards the door with excitement!

Below are some helpful tips from the Humane Society to help ease the anxiety of your pet when you welcome a new baby into your home.

Take your pet to the veterinarian for a routine health exam and necessary vaccinations.

Spay or neuter your pet. Not only do sterilized pets typically have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems, but they are also calmer and less likely to bite.

Consult with a veterinarian and pediatrician if the thought of your newborn interacting with the family pet makes you uncomfortable.

Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him on your lap, which will soon cradle a newborn.

Consider enrolling in a training class with your dog, and practice training techniques. Training allows you to safely and humanely control your dog’s behavior and enhances the bond between you and your pet.

Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your pet to babies. Supervise all pet and infant interactions.

Accustom your pet to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your pet by offering a treat or playtime.

To discourage your pet from jumping on the baby’s crib and changing table, apply double-stick tape to the furniture.

If the baby’s room will be off-limits to your pet, install a sturdy barrier such as a removable gate (available at pet or baby supply stores) or, for jumpers, even a screen door. Because these barriers still allow your pet to see and hear what’s happening in the room, he’ll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises.

Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby’s name if you’ve selected one.

Finally, plan ahead to make sure your pet gets proper care while you’re at the birthing center.

After the baby is born

Welcoming a new baby is exciting for your family. Remember when you first brought home your dog or cat? But before you bring your baby home from the hospital, have your partner or friend take home something with the baby’s scent (such as a blanket) for your pet to investigate.

When you return from the hospital, your pet may be eager to greet you and receive your attention. Have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your pet a warm, but calm, welcome. Keep some treats handy so you can distract your pet.

After the initial greeting, you can bring your pet with you to sit next to the baby; reward your pet with treats for appropriate behavior. Remember, you want your pet to view associating with the baby as a positive experience. To prevent anxiety or injury, never force your pet to get near the baby, and always supervise any interaction.

Life will no doubt be hectic caring for your new baby, but try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your pet adjust. And be sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your pet each day—it may help relax you, too. With proper training, supervision, and adjustments, you, your new baby, and your pet should be able to live together safely and happily as one (now larger) family.

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Mary Galvano-Bajohr is a singer/songwriter, LPGA golf instructor, speaker and author. On the golf course she is a dedicated professional, but go to a Yankee game, a Pro-life event or other venue and you just might see her step up to the microphone and sing the National Anthem or the Ave Maria.

Visit Mary’s website at www.marygalvano.com.

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