We used to be the DINKs (dual-income no kids) couple with a house full of “fur babies”, and now we’re first-time parents trying to keep the animals we love from suffering from too much of the baby blues.
Discussion Point: When your pets were your babies before you had a baby, how do you balance your time and attention, and how do you keep everyone safe?
Background: Anyone who knows us or has followed us at all via any social media has “met” Ezio. Ezio is our 2-year-old, male Shiba Inu who almost didn’t make it. This little man had some serious aggression issues, and let’s be honest, requires special handling every day. Add his unique needs, our female Shiba Inu, two Abyssinian cats and a baby and it’s clear we’ve got our hands full.
We then brought Cara home and did our best to give the animals as much love as possible early on. We didn’t want them to feel neglected, and sleep deprived or not, we were always petting them when we passed them in the house and did our best to stick to the routine.
He Said: Introducing baby and pets was easier than we thought, but I know we still have a long way to go through the stages of Cara’s life (e.g. Crawling, Walking, grabbing, etc…). We did what you read everywhere, which is taking blankets/bibs/etc… with the baby’s smell home from the hospital when she was born so the dogs could get used to the scent. I had to be careful because Ezio would want to destroy the blanket, and that felt a little strange because I wanted him to like the scent, not eat it.
Prior to this, we would play baby noises on the speaker, and as much as I hated that, it was good for the dogs, particularly since their initial reactions to crying were barking and freaking out. By the time Cara got home, they were used to the noise.
When we brought Cara home, we would hold her around the pets and let the pets get a foot or two away to peak and smell, but that was the extent. It’s now about 4 months since she was born, and it’s still similar, although we’ll put her on the ground hovering near her and let the dogs come just as close (but now they’re on the same level). This also seems to work, although it has to be closely supervised.
A few things have required changes in our behavior. One is how careful we need to be with toys left around the house and handling of the dogs. The dogs want to claim everything as their own, and we have to make sure this doesn’t extend to Cara’s toys. If you think like a human and believe sharing is OK, then you’re setting things up for a bad encounter. Property rights are important between dogs and kids.
Another interesting behavior change has been in the animals. Each animal has gone through a bit of a mourning/depression period wanting more attention and not getting it. It seems to last about two weeks, and it strangely happened to each pet at different times. All except Toby, who is the one cat I assumed would have it the hardest because he’s the oldest, but he’s been a champ. With Cara, she’s now used to the dog fights and play that takes place, which is nice. She doesn’t freak out over dog fights, which can happen frequently in our household (95% of them playful, but they are loud and rough)
I want to address sharing love among our pets and baby girl as it feels like many pets are neglected when baby comes around (and after experiencing this, can totally get it). Anyone who knows us understands that we are not the people that ignore our pets. The dogs still get the morning and evening walks, and lots of petting and love in between. The one difference is they get less attention in between, but we try to make up for that whenever we can. We find that our pets tend to get their specific love in a place in the house (Toby the cat in bed/bathroom, Red in the closet, Ezio in the office, Kaila in the living room). When we’re in these areas, the pets show up, and we show them tons of love, reinforcing their desire to keep showing up in those places.
I am hopeful that things work out harmoniously with our pets and kids. We will continually post about this as we didn’t find ongoing views of this online to learn from and understand the process. I have read that pets in the house are good for a baby’s health. Something about becoming immune to more things and not developing pet allergies. I hope this is true. Time will tell.
She Said: Probably equal to delivery itself, this was the issue I was most concerned about. Coincidentally, it’s also the issue I found the least information on.
The preparation started after a dear friend with an adorable and very vocal baby sent me a video of her little one in a high chair for the first time. As I watched the video her squeals were picked up on my speakers and all 4 animals FLIPPED OUT. I saw what was to come and knew this had to be corrected early. I began playing random YouTube videos of infant cries, baby laughs and other newborn noises that would be foreign to the pets. As the videos played, I ignored the sounds and had the dogs do tricks and rewarded them for focusing on me. From Day 1 with baby home, they’ve not made a peep when she cries. (Barring one awesome YouTube video.)
Next came the crib and the excitement of setting up Cara’s room. Our cats have no boundaries and one of them is the kind of cat who must sit in every new thing that comes into our home. I was worried about him making the crib his new favorite sleeping place and had nightmares of him falling asleep on baby’s face. I read that placing aluminum foil in the crib will deter your cats because they don’t like the feel of the foil on their feet. We put foil in the crib and bassinet and it seemed to work.
After the baby showers, stuff started making its way out of the nursery and into the house. Having baby stuff out also meant the dogs couldn’t just lay anywhere. It forced us to designate dog space vs. baby space. We realized at this point too that the dogs would be spending a lot more time outside, so we transitioned them well before baby arrived so it wouldn’t feel like banishment.
It’s sad seeing your pets get the Baby Blues, but there’s not much you can do at the beginning and baby’s safety is #1. One of our cats only started to come around and show affection to me again within the last month. They have come around though and I feel good that we’ve created a happy and safe environment for everyone.
Stay tuned for when we revisit this topic once she starts crawling…
Products Used*: Ergo Baby Carrier and Infant Insert. We started out with a used Baby Bjorn, but realized that you can’t take an infant in one and didn’t see an infant insert. So we got the Ergo carrier and infant insert below. This allowed us to walk the dogs with baby strapped to chest within a week or so of her birth. It’s been awesome, particularly in the first few weeks when she’d cry in the middle of the night and we could strap her in this, walk her outside, and she’d be out in 5 minutes. Now we’re just trying to keep her awake on evening walks so she doesn’t have a nap before bed and wake up four hours later.
We will most likely go back to the Baby Bjorn in the future because this carrier allows the baby to face forward. We’re finding this to be pretty valuable to keep her awake now that she’s reached the curious stage.
*These links are amazon affiliate, so we do earn a little something if you choose to buy the product from the link above. All products shown are ones that we own and approve (and if we don’t, we’ll mention it above), so if you have any questions regarding them, we’d be happy to answer them.