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The Incredible Power of Pets

If you are a pet owner, you already know one of the biggest benefits of having Fido or Fi-Fi around is companionship. But did you ever think your furry four-legged friend might also be helping you prepare for a new baby? Although there is no clinical evidence relating pet ownership to ease of conception, having an animal companion by your side has been shown in numerous medical studies to lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and provide comfort in a discomforting time.

"Petting your dog or cat can give you a relaxing, five-minute vacation from the pressures of life, and that kind of de-stressing can only be helpful when you are trying to conceive," says Bonnie Beaver, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Loving and caring for a pet also helps create that feeling of family even before you have a child, according to some psychotherapists. The act of nurturing shifts the focus to someone other than yourself who needs your care and helps ease the transition into parenthood by giving you some experience in responsibility. Owning an animal also brings a sense of playfulness into your life, which you will need when caring for a baby or small child.

While a pet does not take the place of a baby, it can make the road to parenthood much smoother. According to Joseph Isaacs, president of the National Fertility Association, "A pet can allow a couple to express their maternal and paternal instincts." In addition, you learn to nurture, teach obedience, and give of yourself, just as you would with a child.

If it has taken you and your partner a bit longer to conceive than you had hoped, having a pet can help make the time pass easier. During a stressful time, an animal can give you emotional support and act as a welcome distraction while you and your partner are going through the stresses of trying to conceive.

If you do not yet own a pet and are thinking of bringing one home, it is important to know what such a task entails. Although an animal can be a wonderful friend and companion while planning for a new baby, it will require a lot of added work and responsibility. Young animals, like puppies and kittens, are usually active and require a lot of time and attention, while older pets tend to be calmer, but may require extra medical attention. Before bringing a new pet home, do some research to find the animal that will best fit into your family now and when the baby arrives.

Below are a few ways to prepare your pet for the arrival of your baby, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States.

  • Take your pet to the veterinarian for a routine health exam and necessary vaccinations.
  • Spay or neuter your pet. Not only do sterilized pets typically have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems, but they are also calmer and less likely to bite.
  • Consult with a veterinarian and pediatrician if the thought of your newborn interacting with the family pet makes you uncomfortable. By working with these experts before your baby is born, you can resolve problems early and put your mind at ease.
  • Address any pet training and behavior problems. If your pet exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist.
  • If your pet's behavior includes gentle nibbling, pouncing, or swatting at you and others, redirect that behavior to appropriate objects.
  • Get your pet used to nail trims.
  • Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him on your lap, which will soon cradle a newborn.
  • Consider enrolling in a training class with your dog, and practice training techniques. Training allows you to safely and humanely control your dog's behavior and enhances the bond between you and your pet.
  • Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your pet to babies. Supervise all pet and infant interactions.
  • Accustom your pet to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your pet by offering a treat or playtime.
  • To discourage your pet from jumping on the baby's crib and changing table, apply double-stick tape to the furniture.
  • If the baby's room will be off-limits to your pet, install a sturdy barrier such as a removable gate (available at pet or baby supply stores) or, for jumpers, even a screen door. Because these barriers still allow your pet to see and hear what's happening in the room, he'll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises.
  • Use a baby doll to help your pet get used to the real thing. Carry around a swaddled baby doll, take the doll in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use the doll to get your pet used to routine baby activities, such as bathing and diaper changing.
  • Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby's name if you've selected one.
  • Sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin so your pet becomes familiar with the new smells.
  • Finally, plan ahead to make sure your pet gets proper care while you're giving birth.


Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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