Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Prepare Your Dog for Your Newborn Baby

If you are like much of the population, your four-legged friend is your first "baby." Many people worry needlessly about how their dog will handle a baby in their life. Many owners think of getting rid of the family pets because of fears that they will harm the baby. Please do not do this unless there is no other option. Most dogs, when treated and trained properly, can handle life with a newborn very well.

Children and pets make wonderful companions when raised properly together and taught how to behave with each other. Children that grow up in a home with pets learn respect and love for animals, and more importantly, respect for life. As the children grow older they can learn responsibility by helping to care for the animals. Animals enrich our and our children's lives beyond belief.

Having a baby can cause problems for both humans and dogs, as the dog tends to be treated differently, and because of this, may act differently. Some owners baby the dog more, causing the dog to become spoiled and hard to handle. Other owners get over-stressed and punish the dog for normal, curious behavior toward the baby. Often our pets are the center of our world, our "babies" if you would, and can get "jealous" if not equipped to handle losing that status to the new baby. If you are willing to make the time and effort to prepare your pets for the new arrival, everyone can live in harmony.

Sometimes the dogs become overprotective of the baby. Many owners enjoy and even prefer the dog being a guard for the baby. While it is normal for the dog to become protective of the baby, it is dangerous for the dog to become overprotective and not let anyone near the baby. All of the above scenarios can lead to the dog being kicked out of the house!

As you are making preparations to bring home baby, you need to prepare your dog(s) for the same in advance if possible. While most dogs will be very gentle with the baby, many dogs do not see babies as humans because of their size, smell, and the strange noises they make. By taking the time to give your dog some extra love and attention he should be fine and not turn to bad behavior to get your attention. You need to prepare and educate your dog for what lies ahead. This will ensure that they are ready and willing to accept the new family member with open and loving paws.

Using calming remedies (herbs, aromatherapy, oils) and or prescription medications are also an option to help facilitate a better behaved dog. You can talk to your veterinarian to inquire about these products and the implications associated with their use. I am a believer in the holistic approach whenever possible, instead of using drugs.

Please, please always be aware that your dog is an animal and animals can bite or do harm to a baby, intentionally or unintentionally. No matter how well-behaved or loving your dog is NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG ALONE WITH YOUR BABY! I cannot stress this enough. Accidents can happen. You do not want to harm your baby or have to get rid of your dog because of an unfortunate, and possibly avoidable, incident.

If you are unsure that your dog will accept your new baby, please seek the advice of a professional trainer or behaviorist before making any decisions.

Believe it or not, your behavior with, and toward your dog matters. It can make or break your dog's acceptance of and respect for your baby. If you act like a leader, you will be treated like a leader. You want your dog to respect every human being in your household, including your baby. You must teach your dog respect for the baby. This will make life easier for all those involved.

Baby Sleep Training - How to Mimic the Feeling of the Womb

For the entire beginning of their lives, babies are accustomed to one environment: the womb. It can be very jarring to come into a new world with so much new stimuli, and it can cause a feeling of insecurity in baby. The best way to help baby sleep more soundly, make the transition, and feel safe is to mimic some of the feelings of the womb.

Characteristics of The Womb

So what does the womb have that your house doesn't? Let's think about the environment baby is familiar with:

    Lots of white noise - he's used to a very loud environment, what with the outside noises mixing with the sounds of the body's machinery
    Cramped quarters - he's used to existing in a very small space, where everything is close together
    Feeling supported - he's used to being touched and supported on the sides and bottom of the womb, which creates a sense of comfort from being touched
    Fetal position - he's accustomed to laying in the fetal position, with the arms and legs drawn up and close to the body

As you read this, birth might seem to come as a relief. To us, the womb doesn't seem very comfortable, but to baby, it's home. You can ease the transition and help baby sleep by mimicking some of these qualities

Why Does This Feeling Help Baby Sleep? We've already talked about this, but it's important enough to say again. Babies, even in the womb, are extremely sensitive to emotions and feelings. Just like you, baby doesn't sleep well if she's not relaxed and feeling safe.

It comes as a domino effect: if baby is anxious or in some other way emotionally upset, she can't relax. When she can't relax, and you put her to bed and leave, she gets more upset, which makes it take even longer to relax. Until she relaxes, she can't fall asleep, and crying ensues.

Swaddle baby

Swaddling baby can help her relax and settle down because it mimics the close quarters of the womb. Babies can be unsettled by the free use of their arms and legs after birth, a feeling they didn't have in the womb. Additionally, babies tend to jerk a bit upon falling asleep and can wake themselves up or become startled by these natural movements.

Swaddling baby all the time is fine for the first month of life; after that, baby needs access to her arms and legs to develop properly. However, you can still swaddle baby for naps and nighttime to help her sleep.

So what is swaddling?

Swaddling is wrapping baby tightly in a blanket to mimic the feeling of the womb. Swaddling reminds baby of the safety and compact feeling of the womb.

How to swaddle baby

    Lay a baby blanket on the floor and fold one corner into the center about 6 inches
    Lay baby on her back on the blanket, with her head at the folded-down corner. The head should be off the blanket so it's free
    Take the corner near baby's left hand and pull it across baby to the right, securing it underneath baby
    Fold up the bottom of the blanket towards baby's chin, enclosing baby's feet
    Take the corner near baby's right hand and pull it across baby to the left, securing it underneath baby

Important tips

    Swaddle baby when she is full, clean, and dry. Swaddling is meant to be a comfortable, comforting experience for baby, and if she is in some way unsettled, she will associate bad memories with swaddling.
    Don't swaddle baby when it is very hot. Keep baby from overheating by not swaddling when it is very hot outside or when baby is in a warm room. This is especially important when baby is going to sleep, as overheating is a risk factor for SIDS.
    Listen to baby so you know when she wants out. Baby will kick or squirm when she wants to be free, so pay attention for these actions. Let baby out if you know she is uncomfortable, or the feeling can cause distress and keep baby from relaxing.
    Don't swaddle baby constantly after the age of one month. She needs access to her limbs in order to develop correctly.

Action Items:

    Find or buy a baby blanket
    Practice swaddling a doll before attempting it on your live, squirming baby
    Pay attention to baby's reaction to being swaddled and adjust if necessary

Strategies for Mimicking the Womb Bathe baby in a bucket

There are a host of products available that offer an alternative to a mini-adult-like bath. Baths can be a pivotal relaxation tool each day to help baby sleep, mostly because being immersed in water reminds them of being in the womb.