Having a baby is a big change for the whole family. That includes our fur children! Our dogs have a special place in our homes and our hearts and while our relationship did change when we brought baby home, they are still an important part of the family.
My dogs knew before we did that something was going to change. Before my period was late, they had already started cuddling me more and resting their heads on my stomach. This was our first indication that my raging hormones might not be PMS after all! Throughout my pregnancy, my (already very protective) dogs became even more protective and gentle with me. Both are around 80 lb. babies and they know their size means they can’t play as tough with mom as they do with dad, but they used to still play with me! They love playing tug of war. With my husband, that means rough, trying to drag him around the house, but with me it has always been a much gentler “tug”. During my pregnancy, they wouldn’t even pull the toys! Just dropped it and tried to play with their dad instead!
But, even though they were acutely aware of my growing belly, they didn’t know exactly how much this tiny addition would change our home and our lives (to be fair, I don’t think WE fully understood either). Still, we wanted to make the transition as smooth and easy as possible. Here are some tips to help you do the same.
Prep your home BEFORE baby comes home
Baby’s arrival is going to be a huge (sleep-deprived) adjustment for everyone. Minimize the changes that will happen AFTER baby gets home by making some adjustments before your little one’s arrival. I did my baby shower at about 7 months pregnant to make sure I had enough time to set everything up and get things put away. Some of the big items I made sure to prep were:
- Placing the baby swing in the living room – My dogs must unstuff every single one of their toys. I wanted to make sure if the dangling bears on my swing became a target it was well before baby came home (they were fine). I also periodically turned the swing and music on to make sure when baby was home and in his swing, it had become normal to them.
- Set up the bassinet in our room – Same idea as with the swing. I wanted all of the major changes to our living space to become the norm before baby arrived. This spaced out the changes so it was more gradual instead of sudden.
Ease Into Big Lifestyle Changes
I knew that breastfeeding the baby at night and bringing him in and out of my bed meant that an 80-pound dog snuggled on top of me would make it difficult to get out of bed every 2 hours. I made sure I stopped this before so that it would not cause jealousy or a negative association with the baby. (They still sleep with us, just at the foot of the bed. And honestly, this was not hard to do when I was whale-sized and HOT during my summer pregnancy.)
A little harder was trying to give them less attention. This sounds horrible and went against what I instinctively wanted to do. Knowing I would not be able to give them as much attention with a newborn home, all I wanted to do was give my fur babies the extra attention they deserved, but getting them used to extra attention from mom only to take it away when LO arrived did not make sense. Of course, I still loved on my puppies but tried to taper it a bit so they would get used to a little less of moms attention. My husband worked on compensating for this and giving them extra attention and playtime with him.
Take a look at your lifestyle with your pets and what big changes you think will happen to your routine and try to ease them into it. The more you can introduce early and take away negative associations they would have with the baby, the better.
Getting Ready for the introduction
When Liam was born and I was at the hospital, it was easy to be caught up in the moment and forget about what was going on at home. My brother-in-law stayed with our dogs so we knew they were well taken care of, but we did a few small things during this time period to start introducing our fur babies to their new brother and keep things a little less abnormal.
- Bring home items that smell like baby. Liam was born around 10 pm so we were not checked in to a room until after midnight. Mid-morning the next day, my husband brought home the blanket Liam slept with to let our dogs start to get used to his scent. The next day, he brought home a beanie. I have read one story where a dog ripped up the item their owner brought home, that doesn’t seem like a good sign. Our dogs, on the other hand, took to it very well. Marley even used the beanie as a pillow.
- Obviously, I was not able to spend time with our dogs during this time. My husband made sure that when he went to the house to bring the baby items, he spent time with our dogs and played with them. They were missing us at night but at least having him home for a couple hours during the day gave them a sense things would go back to somewhat normal soon.
Bringing baby home
We treated this similar to what I have read about introducing an older sibling to a new baby. Since my husband had been home throughout my hospital stay, we knew I would be the target “attack” when we got home (EXCESSIVE kissing and sniffing) so I went into the house alone to allow our dogs to greet me and get in the snuggles they missed during my absence. Once that was out of their system, my husband came in with the baby. He held Liam and let them sniff and greet their new little brother. We settled in and it did not take long for the dogs to become protective over our new little addition. When he started crying to be fed, Marley ran over to his bassinet and Boss started whining and howling until we attended to his brother. Liam was in good hands.
As Liam has continued to grow throughout the past year, we have continued to be mindful of how our dogs are affected. I have tried to keep them included as much as possible so they do not have resentment or jealousy of their human brother. We may have done a little too good a job on this since Liam seems to think he is one of the dogs.
Has this helped give you some ideas to prep your pets for your baby’s arrival? What are some ways you prepared your fur babies for LO’s arrival?