Jenny Larsson from NSW writes: I have two Labradors Asha and Bear, they are my 5 year old babies and my whole world. My partner and I are due to have our first baby in four months, and I am concerned how my dogs will adapt to this new arrival. We want to make changes as smooth as possible for them, so what can we set in place before the baby arrives?
Growing up with animals is a wonderful and magical experience for children. Studies have shown that children that grow up with animals are more stable, understand boundaries better, and learn how to self-soothe in stressful situations. It can also be equally rewarding for animals to live with young children and babies, as their energy frequency is very similar to the animals. It is quite natural for mothers’ protective instincts to kick in, and be alert to all dangers including keeping animals around their children. But there are some great tools you can use to prepare yourself, your home and your animals for the anticipated arrival.
Animals are more than just cute cuddly fluffies that live with us. They are our family members, they provide love and support and they bring so much joy to us. It stands to reason that when a new baby comes along, it will affect your animals’ lives as much as it will affect yours. Involving your animals in the preparations for your newcomer will help them to understand what is going on. From showing them the new baby room, to letting them sniff all the furniture, new toys, carriers and clothes so they become familiar with the smell. Setting up boundaries beforehand will also help prepare your animals for the big changes coming. Teaching them what rooms they are allowed to come into and learning to wait for baby gate doors to be opened through the home will also help them get used to the new routines.
Having a baby irrevocably changes our lives. We are no longer able to think about ourselves, whilst this little being needs our care constantly to survive. Needless to say, our needs as well as our animals’ needs can be compromised. And this is where I cannot emphasise enough that your animals’ routines need to be kept the same as much as possible. If you take them for daily walks in the evening, keep that routine going. If they get fed in the morning and enjoy cuddle time in the afternoon, keep that happening. I have met many animals that have told me ‘Ever since the baby arrived, she doesn’t take me for walks anymore. If I try to ask for cuddles, she says wait a minute. But it never comes. I don’t know if I did something wrong to make my people ignore me?’ A lot of this confusion and hurt comes from disorganisation and no communication with your animals. Plan and keep a schedule so your animals don’t get neglected and they still feel a part of the family. The last thing your want to create around the baby is jealousy and confusion.
When the Baby Arrives
What a memorable moment! It is an overwhelming time for you and your partner, you are learning how to take care of your little one, and you cannot believe what you are holding in your hands. When you arrive home, not only are you bringing something precious inside, you are also greeting some precious members too. Your animals will be so happy to see you and also will be curious about the new bundle. The first thing is to put the baby in its crib, and greet your animals. Spend time with them; give them their attention and cuddles before introducing them to the new bub. Once they are over the excitement of seeing you again and they have calmed down, then bring the baby into an open space room. Give them plenty of room to come to you when they are ready, to sniff and inspect the new baby. For some animals, babies, especially their crying can be overwhelming. Don’t be surprised if your animals are not so forthcoming in greeting their newest family member. Give them time, and reassure them that they are still important members of your family. Again, as they get used to the baby’s presence, ensure they have places around the home to escape if it becomes too much for them. Quiet rooms, spaces to be outside and also special time with you when the baby isn’t around are essential. Of course your new baby always needs total supervision while your animal friends are around so everyone including you can get used to the situation.
If it has been quite a few months and your animals are not adapting to your new arrival, you can use some Flower essences such as Walnut to help them cope with the changes. Alternatively, you can book in with an animal whisperer and ask your animals how are they feeling about the new changes and how we can make them happier. At the end of the day, your animals were there first before the baby, and it seems fair to ensure their happiness and wellbeing are maintained; that they still feel they are loved and cherished, with important roles in the family.