When Fur Baby Meets Human Baby
Before we have human children it’s not unusual to treat our pets as ‘fur babies’. Whether you have a cat, a dog, or both, they are part of our family naturally and have a special place in our hearts. But when human babies come along things often have to change, and it is not uncommon for our fur babies to get stressed, anxious and jealous. After all, they don’t understand why they are no longer your first priority. There are a few things you can do to reduce any negative impact the arrival of your human baby might have on those furry ones, and to keep your human baby safe.
It is important to start thinking about the changes you will need to make early on in your pregnancy. Ideally, by the time you are around 4 months pregnant you should be gradually introducing those changes. If your pet associates the changes in its life to the coming home of the baby it may set up a jealous reaction, so start slowly and early so your pet doesn’t make that connection.
For Dogs and Cats
There are a few things you might like to consider whether you have a dog or a cat:
- Animals have a much keener sense of smell than humans, and when baby comes home there will be all sorts of new smells – talcum powder, baby lotion, baby wipes. In the months before you give birth, rub some of these things on your legs while you are home so your pet can get used to them. When these unfamiliar smells blend with your familiar one, your pet will get used to them quickly.
- Babies can make a lot of noise, and if your dog or cat is unfamiliar with a crying baby it can create fear or anxiety. Try playing recordings of babies crying in the months leading up to your labour. As with all this advice, start slow – just a minute or two – and build up your pet’s resistance. Happy by-product – it will build up your resistance too!
- If you have friends with babies, ask them to bring them over and introduce them to your pets so they are familiar with the look of a baby, and all the paraphernalia that goes with them.
- If you feed your fur baby in the house, think about where that food (and the litter tray if you have a cat) is situated. It if is somewhere baby will be using, gradually move it until it is somewhere baby won’t be able to get to, and your pet will feel secure in the safety of their food.
- Think about who your dog is most attached to. If it is you, try to develop a deeper relationship between your dog and your partner or another family member who will be able to focus on the dog when baby comes home.
- Think about your routine – if you walk the dog twice a day, will this be sustainable once baby comes home? If not, and you decide you will have to drop down to once a day for a while at least, start your new routine now. Don’t suddenly go from two walks to one, but maybe only one walk every third day, then every second, until you feel your dog is OK with one.
- Does your dog sleep on the bed with you? Find an alternative to this early. Even if you don’t plan on co-sleeping with your baby, there will probably be times when the baby will end up in your bed – if only so you can get some sleep yourself. Having a dog in the bed with a baby is not ideal, especially if it is a big dog.
- Think about where your baby’s play area might be. Baby’s need ‘tummy time’ from very early on, so set up your ‘exclusion zone’ early so your dog knows where it is not supposed to go. Baby gates can be good for this. If that’s not possible think about a playpen for baby.
- If your fur baby is a jumper, think about some training, particularly if it is a big dog. The last thing you want is your baby to come to any unintended harm while you are holding them.
Cats can be little trickier than dogs. Not only are they less ‘trainable’ but they are able to get into places that dogs just can’t. This makes them harder to manage with a new baby.
- Probably the most important thing to bear in mind is that a cat should never have access to where your baby is going to sleep. Cats have a way of curling up where it is warm and comfortable, and if they decide that is beside your baby’s face it could have tragic consequences.
- Cats are very sensitive about smells, and new things coming into the house – like cots and prams – can cause them to feel they need to mark their territory. As soon as you introduce an item, run a clean cloth over your cat’s head, and then wipe it over the legs of the pram, cot, or change table. Putting their scent on it will let the cat know it is safe.
- You may like to invest in a cat pheromone diffuser. You can get them from any vet. This will disperse harmless cat pheromones into the air which keep kitty calm. It’s the cat world equivalent of a lavender candle!
- Make sure your cat has somewhere safe they can go to get away from baby once it starts moving. If you feed your cat in the laundry, can you install a cat-flap in the door? Your cat will feel much less stressed if it feels it has somewhere safe to hide.
Introducing your Babies
If you have had a hospital or birthing centre birth it is possible you have been away for a couple of days, and your pet will have missed you. Ask your partner or another family member to hold the baby while you greet your fur babies so that you can give them your undivided attention.
Once they have settled down after seeing you again, introduce baby. Try and do it on neutral territory – the front yard or porch is often good. Make sure both baby and pet are held securely, with dogs on a lead, and let your pet smell the baby. Give them lots of praise (and a treat) if they respond well, but don’t force it if they give baby a quick sniff and then turn away. Some will take a little more time to get used to the new addition than others.
As much as we love them, it is important to remember that our fur babies are animals. No matter how much you trust them, never leave them alone with your baby. All it takes is for baby to reach out and innocently pull an ear or tail and things could go horribly wrong. Stick to supervised visits until your baby is old enough to know how to touch your pets.
If you are pregnant and would like more information on how to manage the introduction of a baby into your life, or you have any questions about pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, I would love to chat. Give me a call on 0422 258 771 or get in touch:
Birth Story – Amanda
I like to be prepared, so when Morgan and I started planning a baby I Googled pregnancy and birth and soaked up everything I could find.
One of the things I found was Doulas. Here in Australia they’re not a big thing. But I think the hospitals should mention them from the get-go. Being pregnant, and giving birth is so tough, and people just aren’t getting the support they need.
In my Googling I came across Angela Gallo on Instagram. The way she talks about birth and empowerment really resonated. I wanted to find a Doula that had trained with her, and that’s how I found Alison. At the time I didn’t even know about Postpartum doulas.
Talking to Alison, she reminded me of a really motherly figure. Even though I had the support of my mum, sister and Morgan, it was good to have someone emotionally removed. She was invested but not attached.
I think that women need someone to chat to and have someone to give you unbiased information and advice. Having Alison was like having a best friend whose sole job it is to support you. She was also great at giving Morgan the support he needed. We were more confident because we felt educated and supported. She is so well educated, calm and supportive.
Alison touched base with us throughout the pregnancy. In the later stages she gave us lots of videos, exercises and a wealth of information.
I started having faint contractions at around 2am. I was calm because of everything Alison had taught me. I had a scheduled appointment with the midwife at 10am, and she confirmed I was in labour. Over the course of the day, Alison checked in regularly to make sure I was eating, drinking and resting. She also checked in with Morgan to make sure he was OK, and helped him stay calm. She reminded us to try and keep labouring at home as contractions were sill too far apart.
At around 5pm the contractions increased and by 6pm they were pretty intense. The hospital told me to take 2 paracetamol, and Alison suggested a hot bath or shower. I thought I still had hours to go.
At 8pm my waters broke. Morgan started to stress, but Alison calmed him down, which helped me too. By 9pm Alison was headed to our place, but Morgan called her to ask her to meet us at the hospital – things had really started to speed up. Alison arrived with a bag full of amazing stuff, like cold Hydralyte and a fan. I didn’t want to be touched – I was in the zone, but Alison made sure my family had her Blissballs to snack on. Almost straight away they took me to a birthing room, and 45 minutes later my baby was born. It was a fast birth but Alison made sure we were all OK before leaving us to be a new family together.
What was great was that Alison supported Morgan and I all day. I didn’t know how tough the pain would be, but we felt like we weren’t alone. Alison was always there for us.
I had imagined breast feeding would be easy. That my baby would latch on and I would end up with a freezer full of milk, but it didn’t work out that way.
I spent two days in hospital before I went home. I felt like my baby wasn’t getting enough milk, that there was something wrong, but the midwives at the hospital said that he was latching on great, and either he was lazy or I didn’t have enough milk.
When the midwife came to the house for the first checkup, my baby had lost weight. He was fussy and pulling off the breast. When she came back the next day to check on us, he had lost more weight. The midwife suggested formula top-up and said if he had lost weight again the next day we would have to go back to hospital. I broke down crying. It felt like my fault, like I had somehow stuffed up. Alison was fantastic – a shoulder to cry on. Her gut instincts told her something was not right and formula was not the solution.
Of course, when the midwife came back the next day he had put on weight because of the formula, so the midwife said that we wouldn’t need to go back to the hospital. She was really dismissive. She actually said to me ‘I don’t mean to insult you but you have hypoplasic breasts[i]…’ and I should use formula.
Alison was great. I was getting pretty depressed and Morgan was worried but she supported us both just like she had during the pregnancy and birth. She suggested a specialist Lactation Consultant, and it was such a relief.
The Lactation Consultant straight away picked up that my baby was tongue-tied in three places – the upper lip, cheek and tongue. Nobody in the hospital or the home visit midwife had even looked in his mouth. They had just been boastful about their knowledge.
The Lactation Consultant was disheartened that I had been told to put my baby on formula. Tongue tied babies need to work out how to suck on their own and introducing the bottle had interfered with that. The advice of the midwives carries weight, and they hadn’t looked at all the possibilities. If I hadn’t been for Alison, I would have believed the midwife, and I might never have found out about my baby being tongue tied.
The Lactation Consultant referred us to a specialist to release the ties, and he in turn recommended a chiropractor for before and after. My baby’s mouth was pretty sore afterwards, but healed up in about a week.
After that, he began to latch on better but because of the introduction of the bottle he wasn’t sucking from the back of his mouth, so he was feeding at about 80% bottle, 20% breast. That was really tough to come to terms with, but Alison helped us focus on the positives, and see that this wasn’t the end of the world.
My milk supply dropped dramatically, but Alison brought me lots of lactation-stimulating foods and my milk went from around 50ml a day to 200-300ml a day, which really helped my frame of mind. Luckily, Alison had suggested at the beginning that I express colostrum, which I would not have known to do, so I was able to use that.
My baby is now a healthy, happy and in the normal weight range, thanks to Alison and the Lactation Consultant.
Honestly, having Alison as our Doula was the best thing we ever did. I don’t know how we would have got through without her. If you don’t have the right support, the hospital system can chew you up and spit you out. But Alison gives you the emotional and physical support you need – not to mention the knowledge and the toolkit of amazing people she has on hand to help you. She is truly worth her weight in gold!
[i] Hypoplasic breasts means you have insufficient glandular tissue in your breast. The glandular tissue is the milk making tissue. This has no correlation to the size of your breasts.
What to Eat Before you are Pregnant
As part of my role as a Doula, I gather a team of trusted professionals that I can draw on to help my mums and bubs during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. One of these professionals is Stacy Heckenberg BHSc Nut. Med. This week Stacy is guest blogging for me on how to get yourself ready for pregnancy, In coming weeks, she will also talk about what to eat and what to avoid in pregnancy, and how to ensure you get the right nutrition once baby is born.
Planning on a Baby?
Planning for a baby is an exciting time, but around one in 6 Australian couples struggle to conceive. There any number of reasons for this, including the stress of everyday life, and the fact that we are leaving it later to start a family these days. This is why it is so important to start taking action on your health and fertility before you even start to try and conceive.
At least three months before you plan on ‘trying’ – six if you can do it – you should look at some key nutrition and lifestyle factors. Current scientific evidence directly links the health of babies to their mother’s pre-conception health, so now is the time to start looking at your overall health and fertility.
Here are my top tips for the preconception period:
- Get a full health check from your doctor. A blood test can determine any deficiencies that you can work on before trying to conceive.
- A healthy BMI is important to conceiving. Whether you are over or under weight can impact your fertility. This is not just the case for mums. Being overweight can reduce the quality and quantity of sperm, so Dad needs to check his weight too!
- Mum and dad should quit smoking and drinking. Both have negative effect on fertility.
- Work on a healthy diet. This doesn’t mean starve yourself, or give up the things you love. But it does mean looking at the choice you make and working on including the right foods in your diet.
- If you feel like you might not be getting enough nutrition from diet alone, a prenatal vitamin may be a good idea.
- Start a fertility chart to help you understand your menstrual cycle and work out when you have ovulated and are most fertile.
What to Eat before You’re Expecting
If you generally eat a healthy diet, there is not need to change things drastically. But there are a few important nutrients that you should make sure you are getting:
Iron – lean red meat should be included in your diet. Consider increasing the legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils) in your diet, as well as nuts (particularly cashews and almonds), dried apricots, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereals (brown rice, oats, quinoa). A great idea is to make up a ‘trail mix’ with nuts, seeds and dried fruits that you can snack on. This will work all through your pregnancy and beyond.
Zinc – Meats and legumes provide zinc, as do most diary products, wholegrains, eggs and seeds.
Iodine – Seafood – tuna and seaweed – are particularly good for iodine, as is milk, yoghurt and cheese
Folate – This is a really important nutrient as it has been found to reduce the risk of Spina Bifida in babies. Leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, eggs all contain folate. Many doctors also recommend taking a folate supplement before conceiving to ensure your body has sufficient stores.
Vitamin D – Fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon, as well as cheese and egg yolks provide great sources of vitamin D.
You can easily use old-school pen and paper to record your fertility, but there are also a number of apps you can download that will help you do it, some of which are more detailed than others. Whether you want simple, or a bit more detailed, have a look at Glow, Kindara and Ovia Fertility as options if you are looking for an app that will help monitor your fertility.
I hope these suggestions help ensure you are fit and ready for the incredible experience of pregnancy.
Yours in health
If you would like more information on any aspect of conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum, I would love to have chat with you.