Our pets are a part of our family, and many of our clients want to know how best to care for their pets during a home birth.
Before we get too far into how to handle different pet situations, it may be useful to picture how things are likely to unfold on the day of your baby’s birth. Many, many babies are born at night, and it is likely that we will be arriving at your home during the hours when your family would normally be sleeping. Often, we will have asked you or your partner, during an earlier labor phone call, to leave the door unlocked for us, so that we can enter without disturbing you.
In addition to the disruption of our presence, the environment in your home will be different than it normally is, with new sounds and energies. You will be working hard to bring your baby into the world, and you’ll be making noises that your pets may interpret as distress.
So, in light of these considerations, should you have your pet present during the birth? The first thing you’ll want to consider is the temperament and needs of your pets as individuals. Is your dog anxious? Protective? Super friendly to strangers? A laid-back dog who is always happy to greet new people will likely do just fine after a short introduction with us during your 36 week home visit. Relaxed dogs often just hang out nearby to the birth space, or may even come in to check on you occasionally during labor.
On the other hand, anxious or protective dogs may have a little more trouble. Though it may be tempting to crate them or close them off in another room, this might be stressful. These dogs may need a “doggie doula” – a family member or friend who can come to your home for the express purpose of caring for your dog during your birth in a separate part of the house. An alternative to this would be to have this person take your dog to another location until everything is back to normal.
Cats tend to be a little easier to work around than dogs, as they are far more likely to simply hide in another part of the house during the big event. Our feline friends are individuals, though, and some are perfectly comfortable checking out the action. If this is likely to be your cat, the main caution we’d like to impart is about the birth pool. Rarely, a cat (especially a young cat), is curious enough about the pool to give it a swipe or two with their claws – which, you can imagine, is not at all good for the inflatable pool. When possible, it would be a good idea to keep the pool safely hidden from the kitties.
After you and your pet have weathered your peaceful home birth, what comes next? It is good to do a little bit of thinking about how introductions will go between your pets and your new baby. In general, these introductions should happen when both parties are calm. Your pet might appreciate the opportunity to smell a baby blanket to help them get used to the new resident. Important safety tips: Baby should be kept away from pointy bits, such as teeth and claws, and should never be left unsupervised in a room with a pet.
We hope these tips help you consider how you would like to include your pet in your birth plans, just as you would for any other member of your immediate family.