How to Introduce a Newborn to the Family


Preparing The Family Pet for a New Baby

No, your cat will not suffocate your infant in the crib. This myth dates back to the days of witchcraft, when infant mortality was high and standards of hygiene were low. Someone always seemed to remember seeing a cat in the crib of a baby who subsequently died. The underfed animal was probably attracted to the crib by the smell of milk. A cat, or any other animal, for that matter, is incapable of forming a complete seal around a baby's mouth and nose and so could not possibly suffocate him or her.

However, it is wise to consider the possible reactions of your dog or cat to a new baby. If you have no other children and have had your pet for some time, it is probably accustomed to being "the baby," a valued and well-loved member of the household, and may very well be jealous of a rival for your attention. The animal will most likely adjust quickly and learn to love the baby as much as it does you. You can ensure this acceptance by preparing your pet for the baby, using some of the tips we provide in this section.

First, consider obedience training for a dog that does not obey your commands to sit, stay, and be quiet, or cannot be kept from jumping up on people or furniture. If your dog or cat is not accustomed to children, try to arrange for it to spend some time with a baby occasionally. Speed up the process of your pet becoming acquainted with your baby by bringing home from the hospital something the baby has used so the dog or cat gets used to the unfamiliar scent. Some parents put a cloth diaper or a small blanket in the hospital bassinet with the baby to pick up this odor. And when you get home from the hospital with the baby, try to spend a few minutes alone with the pet to assure it of your love, just as you would an older child.

Of course, you don't want even the most loving of dogs or cats in your infant's crib. If you have not been able to train your dog to stay off beds and other furniture, or if your cat shows an interest in leaping into the crib to investigate the new arrival, block the door of the baby's room with the gate you will later use to keep your child from tumbling down the stairs or otherwise getting into dangerous trouble. If this doesn't work (as it probably won't with an agile cat), another option is to replace the door of the baby's room with a screen door. Both options allow you to see into the room but keep the pet out.

Baby's Allergies

The possibility your dog or cat will not adjust to a baby in the house and will have to be banished is probably remote, but the chances the baby will be allergic to your pet may not be. About one child in five develops allergies to one or another substance. Pollen, food, or dust may be responsible -- even the bacteria that survive in your water bed -- as can anything that can be touched, eaten, or breathed, including the tiny particles of pet hair or skin (dander) suspended in the air of your house. A tendency toward allergies is often inherited, but the specific allergies do not always take the same form in one family member as in another. For example, you may be sensitive to certain foods or to a plant that blooms at a certain season of the year but not to animals. Your child may inherit your tendency to allergies, but react, at least in infancy, only to animals.

The symptoms of allergy to animal hair are similar to those of the hay fever caused by pollens of trees, grass, and other plants. You may at first confuse them with the symptoms of a cold: itchy, runny eyes and nose, a general stuffiness of the head, an ear infection, or perhaps even a little wheeziness in breathing. If you suspect an allergy to your pet is causing the baby's discomfort, see your doctor. Until something is done, the symptoms will increase and can cause sleeplessness, loss of appetite, inflammation of the eyes, ears, sinuses, throat, and bronchial tubes, and perhaps even a full-blown asthma attack. Unfortunately, your only solution is to get the animal out of the house. Allergies do change as people grow older, and at some time in the future your child may outgrow this one and be able to enjoy the benefits of having a dog or cat.

Do be aware pests, such as fleas, and even some illnesses can be transmitted from pets to children. Keep your pet clean and insect-free. Wash your hands carefully after handling or cleaning up after your pet. Ask for your veterinarian's advice if your dog or cat is sick.

If you give your pet a little preparation and then allow some time for him to adjust to the loud, squirmy "thing" that's invaded your home, there's a pretty good chance Fido (or Fluffy) will come to adore baby -- and that baby will adore him, too.

If you've done your homework and prepared everyone for the arrival of your baby,

introducing him to the family can be a wondrous occasion! Try to be patient with all of your loved ones and remember that they most likely want what they think is best for you and your newborn.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.