Bringing home a new baby requires a lot of preparation and planning. In addition to all the new clothing, gear, furniture and diapers you'll need to acquire, it's important to prepare your pet for the changes a baby introduces into your home.
Dogs and cats typically thrive best with a routine, so adding a new element into the mix, especially one as unpredictable as a baby, requires you to take some steps to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.
A lot can be done to ease your pet into accepting the appearance of a new baby, but it's important to plan ahead. Don't spring this big change on your pet, but rather gradually ease them into the change.
Set up baby furniture and bigger pieces of gear early enough for your pet to sniff around and get used to it being in your home. Allow them to thoroughly inspect everything, even lay on or crawl around the baby furniture. If any gear makes noise, be sure to turn it on in advance so your pet gets used to the new sounds.
You can introduce your pet to the baby even before the baby arrives, as well. Play a recording of baby noises for your pet to help them acclimate to the sounds of crying and baby chatter.
While your new baby is still in the hospital, wrap them up for a few hours in a blanket. Then, someone should take it home for your pet to smell in advance of your arrival. If you'll be using scented baby lotions or powders, you may want to expose your pet to those too, before they're in use.
It's crucial to begin making adjustments to your pet's routine before the baby arrives to avoid any abrupt changes. If you know you'll need to modify the walk schedule, start slowly shifting it toward the new time in advance of the baby's arrival. If you know feeding time will differ once the baby comes home, tweak the routine a few weeks before your due date.
It's also important to take care of any behavioral or obedience issues before the new baby arrives. Make sure you address any current problems in advance. For dogs, make sure they're trained not to jump, to respond when you call them and to follow basic voice commands like sit or stay.
In addition to keeping some space pet-free for the baby, you'll want to create a safe space for your pet to go that's baby-free. Especially as your little one gets older, pets may need a place to escape to for a little peace.
For dogs, a crate, dog bed or gated area in the apartment where your little one can't go will suffice. For cats, they feel most peaceful up high, so give them access to get above you. A cat tree, wall-mounted perch or even an empty shelf that's accessible will do.
Although the primary demand on your time will be attending to the needs of your baby, don't forget to love on your pet. It's OK to have a little less time for them than before, but make sure to give them attention while you're with the baby to show your pet that the love you have for them isn't separate, and it won't only occur when the baby isn't around.
Introducing your pet to your new baby should be a gradual process. Don't feel as if you have to bring your baby right up to your pet the moment you walk into the house. They will be aware there's someone new around, especially if you take the proper steps to prepare your pet for the baby's arrival.
After a few days, they'll be ready to sniff a little closer, and before long, it will feel like the baby was always a part of the family.