Q. 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?
A. 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 Karen Baker, mother of now-8-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 or will utilize local doggie day cares or pet sitters and walkers. This has worked out so well for some families that they continue to share custody of the pet years later.
Consider how you felt about your pets 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 new parents considering “re-homing” their dogs. Go to familypaws.com/hotlineor 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!
If you have a question about your child's health or happiness, ask Pam or any of our experts by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Diamond is a parent coach, postpartum doula, baby sleep consultant and owner of First Daze & Nightzzz, LLC. Pam’s goal is to help parents and babies get off to the best possible start. She helps families fix what’s not working and enjoy what is. She lives in Cary with her husband and two teenage children. You can learn more about Pam on her website: First Daze & Nightzzz, or email her at email@example.com.