Babies and Pets: How to Make the Introductions Safely

I’ve always grown up in a house full of pets. When I was born, my family already had a dog that I remember as loving and kind to me as a child. I was devastated when he died when I was in elementary school. We had more dogs. And birds. And hamsters. And really, just about every type of creature, though, at that point, I was old enough to take care of them myself.

In the adult world, though, I knew the responsibility of caring for animals was big, and it wasn’t something I was prepared to do. My brother stuck my parents with cats when he returned from college, which we all grew attached to. But I was determined not to slack on my responsibilities.

So I never got any cats or dogs. Or birds. Or hamsters. I got fish, which died every year. My college roommate even replaced my fish; she was supposed to take care of it when I was out of town because she forgot to feed it. She confessed years later.

Remember that.

Pets are a big responsibility, which you already know if you’re a pet owner. My girls keep begging us for a dog, but the reality is if we get one, it’s like I’m getting another child, and I can’t handle that responsibility right now.

But what if you have a dog and you’re pregnant? You must have many questions about how to introduce your dog to your newborn, so here we go with answers to those questions so you can all be one big, happy family!

Can a Newborn Be Around a Dog?

Yes, your sweet baby can be around a dog, or cat, too (more on that in a minute). Though it will take some effort on your part. Remember, dogs are pack animals. And cats can get catty, so it’s super-important that you take the time to help your animals adjust.

Since pets are pretty intuitive creatures, they likely know something is going on. So use this time before your baby comes to get them used to the new baby before she’s even born.

Dog playing with the baby

Here are some quick tips for you to help your dog adjust:

  • Let your pet familiarize themselves with the baby’s room. You don’t have to if you don’t plan to allow your pet in there, but if you do, you can let them sniff around and talk to them about it.
  • Put up safety gates. Use safety gates if you don’t want your dog wandering into the baby’s room. This gives your pet a chance to see what’s happening, which avoids leaving them feeling isolated.
  • Adjust your schedules before the baby arrives. One of the biggest problems with dogs is that we spoil our attention on them, and then the baby comes. Suddenly, your dog is deprived of all that attention, and he won’t like that.

An excellent way to help dogs adjust is to take a stroller with you for your walk. Let this be his new routine. You can even put a doll from your nursery to simulate the experience of walking a baby and your dog simultaneously. The focus should be on the quality of the time you spend with your dog rather than the quantity. By easing this transition, your dog will take to the baby better.

  • Let scents do the talking. While you’re still in the hospital with the baby, send your spouse home with a blanket that smells of the baby.
  • Welcome your pet when you get home. When you leave the hospital with your baby, let your husband hold the baby while you spend some time with the dog. Even just 10 minutes to reassure your dog (or even the cat) that you still love them is plenty. Try to keep things as reasonable as possible for your pet so they can ease into this transition.

What about cats?

Cats also require some work but in a different way. A safety gate is pointless for a cat because it can just jump over it. You can train your cat to stay away from adhesive deterrent products. Sticky Paws is just one of the many products that can help.

The ASPCA also has a special set of cat introduction tips that you should read thoroughly. With cats, it’s crucial to start adjusting your cat as soon as possible. Play the sound of a baby crying, set up the nursery, and begin making areas in the nursery unhospitable for your cat so it will learn to steer clear of them.

Do Dogs Get Jealous of New Babies?

Yes! In fact, all animals do. The breed and size do not matter…every dog (and cat) can feel this way. Balancing the attention you lavish on your pet and your baby will help, as well as following the detailed training tips for the type of pet you have.

What’s most important is that you supervise your pet around your newborn. You can do everything right to get them ready for the baby, but that doesn’t mean you should ever leave your pet unattended around your baby.

There are horror stories about pets attacking babies when they’re sleeping. There are also stories of how pets have rescued the baby. Animals are capable of many things that surprise us, some of those good and some bad. Since they’re unpredictable (even your sweet cat can get jealous and hiss at the baby), you should always watch your pet around your baby.

Babies are awkward creatures that make erratic movements; from a pet’s perspective, it can be scary. And with cats, you don’t want the cat sitting on your newborn, which could suffocate her. This is why you must train your cat to stay out of the crib.

For dogs,

It’s essential to keep your baby out of the dog’s reach. And when babies begin to crawl, more trouble can brew to keep you on your toes. A curious baby will pull at a tail which could upset your pet. A curious baby can choke on a dog or cat food or eat kitty litter. You should never stop prepping your home for baby safety when you’ve got babies and pets around.

How do you recognize the signs your dog is jealous of the baby?

You can find a full list here, but any aggressive behavior, using the bathroom in an inappropriate place (pooping on the rug or for cats, going outside the litterbox), acting pushy, or growling/hissing are just a few of them. 

Is It Safe for a Dog to Lick a Baby’s Face?

You might love those dog kisses, and the baby might smile about them too, but remember, dogs have dirty mouths. You should never allow your dog to lick the baby’s face, but you shouldn’t shun him for it, especially if you’ve welcomed his doggie kisses.

Instead, before the baby comes, get him used to licking your hand. You can easily clean up your hands before touching the baby. Don’t allow your dog to lick the baby, though. Dog germs and newborns don’t mix. This is why supervising your pet is important when the baby comes home. 

Should You Get a Dog Before or After the Baby?

As someone who loves animals, I must tell you from the bottom of my heart…please. Please, do NOT get a dog if you’re not ready for the responsibility. Life will be much easier for everyone if you have a dog and then get pregnant. But if you’re already pregnant, I urge you to wait. Also, make sure the dog is well trained, as the dog jumping on the pregnant belly could harm the baby inside.

This is for the sake of all of you. So many people find it too difficult to train the dog AND juggle a newborn that the dog gets put up for adoption. The chances are that the dog will be euthanized. It’s such a sad thing.

If you’re already pregnant, please wait until your baby gets bigger. You can all pick a dog to love together as a family and have a pleasant experience. Your pet will be happier too. 

If you already have your dog, make sure you follow these tips for helping him get adjusted to the baby before she arrives. Doing so will ensure they become best buddies, but remember, you have to WORK at it. Some dogs are comfortable and big, lovey things that can’t wait to love on the new person in the family. Other dogs are tougher. The breed doesn’t matter, but remember how you prepare for it is everything!

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