Here's question I got from a past client after coming home with their newborn.
I am thinking of getting rid of my dog and cat. I just can’t handle them with our new baby. Have you had other parents who felt the same way during these early weeks and then things got better?
My answer: I appreciate your honesty. A new baby in the house is a huge adjustment for everyone, including our pets!
I worked with a family and their 3-week-old recently, and it was obvious how much their family dog means to them. The house is decorated with professional photos of the dog, comfy pet beds fill the corners and soft blankets cover special chairs. The dog had still not eaten her breakfast by the time I arrived at noon, causing angst in the mom.
Let’s face it, we love our pets. But when our babies arrive, well, our pets may take a back seat. We often don’t have the time or ability yet to handle keeping up with our newborn AND giving our beloved pets the attention they were getting B.C. (before child).
As with all important decisions, I recommend waiting until the feelings of overwhelm have eased before making drastic changes that you might regret later.
“I remember poor Max [the dog] and our kitties slipping down the totem pole a few notches after my babies were born,” says doula Karen Baker, mother of now 13-year-old twins. “But, it was only temporary - we recovered once we had a routine in place and things were a little more normal.”
In order to lighten the load, “loan” your pet to a friend or family member until you can resume adequate care. Some of my clients will make arrangements for their pets to go to a grandparent’s home temporarily. This has worked out so well for some families that they continue to share custody of the pet years later. Other new parents utilize local doggie day cares or pet sitters and walkers. (Check our the new apps available that allow you to use a dog walker much like you'd use an Uber driver.) Again, you may find you and your pet enjoy these options so much that you continue long past the newborn stage.
Before making drastic decisions to relinquish your pets, consider how you felt about them before the baby arrived. If the emotions are positive, then giving it time (12 weeks is a good span), while also reaching out for help, makes sense. You can always revisit the idea of finding new homes for your pets if you still feel overwhelmed after things have calmed down and your thinking is more clear.
Family Paws, a Cary company that provides specialized programs for new and expecting families with dogs, actually has a hotline for situations just like this. Owner Jen Shyrock says they get calls frequently from overwhelmed new parents considering “re-homing” their dogs. She said parents often call after arriving home with their newborn and have concerns about their dog's behavior.
Go to familypaws.com/hotline or call 877-247-3407 to learn how they can help you through this crisis. Family Paws also offers a tip sheet with advice for helping everyone in your family adjust to a new addition.
I’m sure photos of the baby will soon be gracing the walls and shelves of my new clients’ home, not to replace the dog’s photos but to join them. In the meantime, know that you are not alone in trying to figure out how to balance the needs of your new baby, your pets and yourselves!