Preparing your child to welcome a little brother or sister : advice for parents The arrival of a new baby within the family is an exciting and transformative...
Babies and pets :
finding their place
When the child appears … the animal disappears ! This adage has the merit of illustrating the latent conflict between the animal and the little man who will soon cohabit, or perhaps already cohabit under your own roof.
How to apprehend this common life between your animal and your baby? We take stock.
What relation to our animal : simple familiar, or member of the family ?
It is impossible to deny it: a child who is born, and it is the whole equilibrium of the household that is questioned, even upset. This upheaval in human relations during the perinatal period is now recognized and welcomed by families and professionals who follow pregnant women and unborn children.
But here it is: “human relations”, there is not always that in a house! There is also the human-animal relationship. However, the French are particularly attached to their pets … which they sometimes consider to be a full member of the family.
Sometimes, our pet occupies a “subordinate” or even “functional” place, as has long been the case in the countryside (the cat protecting against rodents, the dog protecting against intrusions). But often, a form of anthropomorphism generates a certain undifferentiated territory: the cat sleeps in our bed, the dog eats at our table …
In addition, caring for an animal can be an unconscious opportunity to question our educational ability. So, simple familiar or member of the family? This is a question to ask, because the relationship we have with our animal largely conditions the future child-baby encounter: cohabitation, fraternity, indifference ?
Defining the place of your baby and pet in the shared house is not just a – exciting ! – psychological debate. But it is also a health issue.
A powerful cognitive bias often makes us exaggerate the external threat (snakes or rats from outside, for example) at the same time as blinds us to the internal threat (the animal of the house). In short, it is difficult to consider our doggie or our tomcat as a source of danger for those around him. Forgetting by affection the part of instincts in their animal, how many owners have once said: “But I do not understand, usually he is kind ! ”(Or even“ Afraid of pangolins, but not of my dog ! ”In short.)
Your baby has immature immunity, especially in the first few months of life. And he is totally dependent on adults to defend himself and understand the world around him. Under the guise of love and for your animal, and for your baby, naivety is not allowed to you however: you must protect your baby from zoonoses, bites and potential scratches coming from your animal.
Here are injunctions, mistrust, scruples of killjoy ! Me, my house, everyone cohabits, dogs, cats, babies, children, in a happy loving bazaar ! And you will be right. The baby-animal encounter is that too !
An opportunity for your animal to be protective of a little one. An opportunity for your little one to interact with a loved one. Then later, a playmate for one, a confidant for the other, and a genuine attachment for both.
It will also be the space for the growing baby to experience empathy and the need for benevolent routines by feeding, brushing, caring for an animal. Then for a child who has grown up, being around a pet will always be a great source of questioning not only about the link that unites them, but also about what differentiates them and therefore makes us human.
Some rules of life
To finish, some rules of life so that baby and animal are each in their place.
- If the mother has a strong bond with the household pet, when she returns from the maternity ward she must enter first to reassure the animal. The infant will only enter the arms of the other parent second after this necessary phase of reassurance.
- To facilitate the acceptance of the newborn by the animal, before the arrival of the baby at home, we can make him smell daily a coat or a diaper impregnated with the smell of the future newcomer to create a first olfactory proximity .
- It is preferable to wash your hands systematically after caring for the cat or dog.
- It is better to avoid feeding or caring for the baby while having the animal close to you.
- In the first months at least, the animal should not frequent the baby’s furniture (stroller, cradle, changing table).
- In the baby’s first two years at least, it is best never to leave the baby alone with the animal.
The main thing is to be aware of the two different realities, in terms of awareness and needs, in your baby and in your pet.
Once this step has been taken and the basic rules installed, let’s move on for a beautiful family story between your little heads and your little animals !