This week, Namrata, mum to a 09-month-old baby girl, wrote in to us with a problem that you can easily connect with – already having a pet at home when baby arrives.She said – ‘Since the time I shifted with my in-laws, my daughter kept getting cold and congestion. Initially we thought its here resistance problem, but soon realised it can be an allergy to pet hair. We did a small experiment by staying at my mum’s place for a month. Not only did my baby’s congestion vanish within a week, she also became quite active. I have to go back to my in-laws’ place now, and I can’t ask them to give away the pet. Please help me as to what I can do!’
For those who have a pet at home, its easy to say that the pet almost always becomes a part of the family, a family member itself. So what happens when a little one arrives and things change? How do you make sure that your baby’s health is not affected by the pet’s presence? Most pet owners who have a baby at home will agree that pets, especially dogs, are immensely fond of small babies and love to be around them, and as much as some people are fine with it and in fact love this whole bonding thing, most are not comfortable with the pet sniffing around the little one.
So how do you really manage? Here are a few most common and practical answers that have been shared by other mums who have faced a similar situation themselves. Have a look:
#1 Try and keep the pet away from the child. If the little one is a newborn, make sure the pet does not enter the baby’s room.
#2 If your baby is a toddler now and of a playing stage, try and get your baby in the habit of wearing a mask covering the nose and mouth while playing with the pet. Babies and children love playing with pets and vice versa, so let them bond, but be careful. Also, keep playtime regulated. Once playtime is over, make sure the pet is kept in a different part of the house. Let your pet loose when baby sleeps, but make sure the pet does not crawl up in the bed.
#3 For the initial few months, keep your pet away from the baby. Let your pet see the baby from a distance and get familiar with. Once baby crosses the first few months and is more strong and immune to surroundings, you can slowly let baby and pet be together for some time.
#4 Maintain hygiene in the house. Regularly brush off all furniture for traces of pet hair, sweep the floors and use a disinfectant to mop the floors. Make sure everyone washes their hands after touching the pet and before touching baby.
#5 If a family member of friend is willing, try and send your pet to them for a few months. But make sure you visit your pet at frequent intervals. Once your baby’s immunity is stronger, you can bring the pet back home.
#6 To be sure, try and get baby checked for dust allergies. Sometimes, what is initially seen as pet-hair allergy, may actually be dust-allergy.
#7 You may contact a local pet-care place and let your pet be at a pet-day-care, bringing the pet back home at night. If your baby is suffering from allergies, do this for some months and then see if you can slowly manage a routine where both baby and pet can be at home at all times.
#8 Giving up a pet should be the last resort, as a pet not only teaches a child basic character traits of unconditional love and bonding, but also helps children grow into more affectionate, emotional, responsible and caring adults.
#9 Make sure that your pet is well-cared for and clean. Get your pet regularly treated, cut the hair and always look for ticks and lice. Bathe your pet often and dry out properly. Keep your pet vaccinated and make sure you follow proper eating habits for your pet and also teach your pet to relieve outside the house.
#10 Proper dusting, vaccuming, cleaning, will ensure your house is clean of germs. If your pet loves getting up on your couch/sofa, keep it covered with old sheets and when you sit on them, remove the sheets. Keep the house, especially, baby’s room and pet’s room, clean at all times.
It’s true that there can be no more loving companion for your baby than a pet. Not only does a pet love your baby for life, it also teaches your little one the most important lessons of love, compassion and companionship. Of course, if nothing works, then you don’t have a choice. But make sure you try every other option first.
All the best!
* Our special mommy contributors: Neelam Bhandari, Renuka Suradeep Nath, Neha Sharma, Harini Santhosh, Shraddha Majalkar, Richa Vivek Gupta, Jyoti Sharma, Nina Nair, Minu Sharma, Saumya Tandon, Bijit Baruah, Bantu Nagalakshmi