My fiance and I have five pairs of chickens, four sons, three cats and two dogs. Our sons are teens, and they are great helpers with the pets, so I don't have to worry about anyone's safety together. But if they were babies or toddlers, that would be a different scenario.
I imagine many parents right now, sheltering at home, do have concerns about keeping babies and fur babies safe — since families are together now more than ever.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that babies and pets shouldn't be alone together at any time. Here are some tips to consider to keep your baby and your pet safe and happy.
— Install a sturdy gate to keep your pet out of the nursery when unsupervised.
— Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations, and have your pet checked regularly for parasites.
— Provide a comfortable, special area for your pet inside your home, such as a dog crate or a cat bed.
— Move your pet's food and water bowls to a location out of your baby's reach. The food is a choking hazard, and the water is a drowning hazard. Both are unsanitary for your baby to be playing in.
— Be sure to keep any pet medications, brushes and leashes away from your baby.
— Keep your baby and pet toys separate. Don't give your pet plush toys or rattles, or she might be more likely to mistake your baby's toys for her own.
— If you haven't done so already, consider having your pet spayed or neutered, which might decrease aggression.
— If your dog or cat will tolerate it, teach your baby from a very early age how to gently pet your dog or cat by stroking the pet's back and sides but not reaching toward or over her head. Don't allow your baby to pull at your pet's fur, poke her eyes or disturb her when she is eating, drinking or sleeping.
— If your baby's crying upsets your pet, encourage your pet to go to her safe retreat place, such as her crate or bed.
— Because your baby will be touching your pet, keep your dog or cat as clean as possible.
— Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to fleas and ticks.
— Don't let your dog or cat run loose in the woods during poison ivy season. It's possible to get a poison ivy rash from touching a pet that has brushed up against the leaves.
— Keep your baby far away from the cat's litter box or the dog's poop!
— If there will be times you need to take both your baby and your pet in the car, come up with a way to keep them separate, such as by confining your pet to a crate or carrier.
— Reward your pet's good behavior around your baby with treats.
Here's what our Mommy M.D.'s — doctors who are also mothers — do to keep their own babies and pets safe.
"Our two cats are very special to us, and my husband and I were concerned about introducing them to the baby," says Rachel Rohde, M.D., a mom of a daughter and a son, an associate professor at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and a partner in Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons in Southfield, Michigan. "We started furnishing our baby's room a few months before our baby was born. We also cut 'windows' in the door to the nursery and placed mesh over the holes. That way, we could see and hear through the door, but the cats could not get into the room if the door was closed. We had heard scary stories about pets jumping into cribs, and we had read bad reviews of the tents that supposedly fit over cribs and playpens.
"Before our daughter was born, I started using some baby lotion to get the cats used to the smell, and my husband brought a receiving blanket home from the hospital before we brought our daughter home," Rohde continues. "The cats actually slept on the blanket!"
"When my daughter was born, we had dogs at home," says Jeannette Gonzalez Simon, M.D., a mom of two daughters, a pediatric gastroenterologist in private practice and founder and CEO of Dr. Simon's Remedy, a line of natural products for your baby, in Essex County, New Jersey. "My husband and I wondered, 'How do we bring our baby home to our dogs, who were our babies before our baby was born?' My husband asked his brother to bring a baby blanket home from the hospital so our dogs could smell it before we brought our baby home. We hoped that way they could get a sniff and realize, 'OK, this kinda smells like Mommy and Daddy.'
"When we brought our baby home, my husband went in first to talk the dogs down," Simon continues. "Then we brought the baby in. We let them interact a bit, letting the dogs sniff her. We tried to give them a little bit of bonding time, but by then, it was time to breastfeed her again! We were careful to never put the baby on the floor because we were never quite sure where the dogs would be. Upstairs, she was pretty much in her crib, and downstairs, if I wasn't holding her, she was in her Pack 'n Play."
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Vizslafotozas at Pixabay