Pets and Your Newborn Baby

Babies and pets can be a delightful combination. But sometimes they only mix well if a few precautions are observed. Tragically, in other cases, they don’t go well together at all. A few simple guidelines can help bring harmony in any case.

The first, and one obvious to anyone, is to ensure everyone’s safety. That means both baby and pet. Newborns are the most precious thing in the world to parents, and rightfully so. But the family pet is beloved as well. Keeping them both safe is imperative.

Fortunately, that only requires a little forethought and some preparation. Dogs large and small, of course, will need to be monitored and perhaps restrained, depending on breed and individual character.

Some will see the new little one as prey. Others are merely curious. Either situation can lead to harm to the child. When first introducing the dog to the baby, ensure the dog is controlled with a sturdy leash. Kneel down to the level of both baby and pet. Keep an arm wrapped around the dog’s chest to prevent lunging. Keep the muzzle at least a foot away.

Sniffing without physical contact is ok. Licking, while not toxic, is not recommended at this stage. A baby’s immune system is still maturing. Even though dog saliva contains special antibodies that protect them, they do pick up things that shouldn’t come in contact with the child’s skin. Some children are allergic to the proteins in pet saliva.

Cats can be harder to control. They’re more likely to be fearful or to playfully lash out with a claw-extended paw. They also slip off a standard leash a little easier. When acclimating them to this interesting new thing in the house, use a chest harness to ensure complete control.

Naturally, neither should ever be left in areas where the two can come into contact unsupervised. That will require a little creativity. Dog barriers, high cribs and other preparations can keep almost all dogs at bay. Cats are more difficult, but ensuring they don’t have access to the baby’s room is possible. It does require vigilance, though.

Of course, in a small percentage of cases, the baby will actually be allergic to pet dander. Official figures vary, but the total population of allergy sufferers is about 10%, only a small portion of which are allergic to dander. Also, of that 10%, only a very small portion are infants. So, the overall odds are very low.

In those cases, just as with adults, avoiding contact is best. Many parents won’t want to remove a loved pet from the household entirely. The situation is not an unresolvable dilemma, though. Very little pet dander remains airborne for long. Frequent washing of bedding and a once-per-month wash of the pet can help a lot.

Of course, the situation is far from all negative or worrisome. Pets and babies can have a wonderful bond of the sort that exists with other family members and the pet. A caged pet bird or lizard can be just as much a delight for a baby as for anyone else. Many dogs have actually rescued babies from dangerous situations, either directly or by alerting an adult.

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  1. HART (1-800-HART)
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    (From the PetLvr Archives): Pets and Your Newborn Baby

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