Introducing Your Pet To Your Newborn

If there’s one situation we had to spend months preparing for before we had Alice, it was getting Fudge used to no longer being the only baby in the house and preparing him for the arrival of our bundle of joy! Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m one of those chihuahua owners who babies their dog. Although he’s almost 8 years old, Fudge is a rescue we’ve had for just over 4 years, and from the start, I’ve let him get away with things such as sleeping on the bed with us and having free run of the house. However, we have also trained him with basic commands like sit, stay, wait, down etc. and knew that these basic commands would help massively with the arrival of a new baby in the house! 

Due to Fudge’s history, he hates and is scared of anything or anyone he doesn’t know. We have to lock him away if strangers come to the house, which isn’t great as his separation anxiety goes through the roof. However, we enlisted the help of a behaviourist after getting gran home in 2020 to help with socialising Fudge enough that he’d accept people and gradually get used to those who need to visit repeatedly, as well as working on his anxiousness. When meeting someone new, Fudge is prepped beforehand with calming remedies from Vita Canis and given many treats and fuss whilst the person is there. On the first visit, the person is told to completely ignore Fudge, then the second visit, or if the first visit is long enough, Fudge will gradually go toward the person to sniff them out and eventually allow them to fuss him. It’s meant that he gets on really well with my community nursing team and Alice’s health visitor. It’s also meant we’ve been able to get him to accept friends and family who regularly visit as well. 

Thankfully when it comes to babies and toddlers, we know from experience that Fudge is protective of them and takes to them a lot quicker than adults and older children. For example, he took to Archie, my 2-year-old brother, almost straightaway as Archie never corners him and always allows Fudge to go to him when he wants to play or have cuddles. With Alice being newborn, we knew the introduction would be easy from this experience. However, we still wanted to prepare him as best as possible since Alice would be at home all the time, whereas Archie only comes over a couple of times a month. 

So how did we do it? 

Well, there were several things that we did to prepare Fudge for Alice’s arrival in the months before she was born. 

1 – Setting up the main items earlier.

We had Alice’s pushchair up at 20 weeks, mainly so I could get used to the handling of it by pushing Archie around. However, it allowed Fudge to get used to something new in the house. Then 6 weeks later, we set up Alice’s Snuzpod. Fudge has free run of the house and is allowed on the beds and sofa, so we needed him to learn that this one bit of space isn’t for him, and he isn’t allowed there. Luckily, he learned quickly, which is why he’s still allowed to sleep in our room. 

2 – Calming remedies

We use a combination of calming remedies with Fudge. For example, even before Alice was born, we were using Zylkene each day after it was recommended to us by his behaviourist to take the edge off of his anxiety. We also have two plug-in diffusers from Pet Remedy to create a relaxing environment in the house for Fudge and use calming remedies from Vita Canis before any significant events like going to the vets or groomers and when people come to the house. Before bringing Alice home, I had dad put both comfort blend and calming spray on Fudge to help him relax. 

3 – Allowing Fudge to smell Alice’s clothes before washing them 

If you know that you’re likely to be in the hospital after birth, then taking some of the clothes that your baby has worn and allowing pets to sniff before washing enables pets to pick up baby’s scent so that it won’t be so difficult when it comes to the meeting. For example, I had dad take Alice’s clothes home once we’d been downgraded from NICU to transitional care so that Fudge had a few days to get used to Alice’s smell. It meant that when we came home, Fudge sniffed Alice and then left her for a while before going back to her a few times and laying next to us.

4- Using muslin squares

If you don’t feel comfortable letting your pet sniff your baby’s clothes, you could also get muslin squares to place under them, which pick up their scent and leave those in various locations around the house. We also did this with Fudge and popped some in her Snuzpod so that Fudge knew why that was a space he couldn’t go in. We also put them in her car seat so that Fudge knew she’d be in there sometimes too, which helped when getting home as he didn’t jump at the car seat when we arrived. 

Using all of the above tips, we quickly managed to get Fudge and Alice to live alongside each other to the point that not only is Fudge allowed to sleep in our room still, but this photo was taken a couple of days after Alice arrived home! 

Alex, a red haired man with glasses and wearing a dark green hoodie is smiling whilst holding Fudge, a blonde and tan chihuahua in one arm and Alice, a small white baby with brown hair in the other.
Alex holding Fudge and Alice!

Did you have trouble introducing your pets to your new edition? Or do you have other tips that worked for you when preparing your pets and introducing them to your newborn? Comment them below! 

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Meet Our Little One!

TW: This post details our NICU journey and the reason why our baby needed NICU. 

Following on from our birth story blog posts, it’s time to introduce our little one to you all, as well as what happened next! 

Our little miracle and fighter, Alice Frances Margaret, was born at 0710 on 21st August 2021, weighing 2480g. She came into the world face up, which meant the first of Alice’s many facial expressions we were greeted with was her extremely grumpy one which Alex managed to get a photo of. 

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is wrapped in a white towel and wearing a white hat. Alice has various bruises from the forceps on her face and is extremely grumpy!
Alice at 23 minutes old!

Perfect in every way, I was so glad to get some skin to skin with her. However, my right arm had been severely affected by the epidural, which meant I couldn’t lift my arm or move it very well, so Alex and Paige, the midwife who took over from Sarah shortly after Alice was born, had to help me with holding her. All was going perfectly until 79 minutes after Alice’s birth. 

People always say expect the unexpected, but what happened at 0829 on that Friday, just 79 minutes after Alice’s birth, shook both Alex and me to our cores. It really was the worst moment of our lives so far, as Alice stopped breathing while on my chest, and we didn’t even realise it. I genuinely thought that Alice had fallen asleep on my chest. Even when I mentioned it to the nurse looking after us in recovery in search of reassurance, the fact that she didn’t respond made us both think it was ok. It wasn’t until Paige came back in 30 seconds later and realised what had really happened that all hell broke loose. 

Having your baby swiftly taken off of you and seeing medical staff resuscitate them whilst the emergency buzzer means more medical staff are swarming into help is something that neither of us would wish on our worst enemy. I honestly thought we’d lost our baby, and Alex was that focused on trying to see what was being done to Alice that one of the staff had to try and force him to come and comfort me as I was being pushed out of the bay to a different area of recovery. We had no idea at that moment in time if our baby would make it. The 15 minutes it took to find out the update was the longest 15 minutes of my life. It truly felt like hours. 

The doctor who came to give us the initial update on Alice happened to be one of the doctors who looked after my mum in 2013 when she was fighting for her life in ICU. The second he said Alice was breathing, I felt the most enormous wash of relief pour over me. It didn’t matter that they were still trying to stabilise her and that the neonatal team were transferring her to NICU at that point, she was alive, and that was all that mattered. 

Shortly after the initial update, I was transferred back to the labour ward, and Alex came with me. At this point, I was trying to process exactly what had just happened to us, but if I’m honest, my brain couldn’t take anything in. As soon as I saw my dad and he realised that Alice wasn’t with us, I burst into tears once more because I couldn’t get out exactly what happened and Alex had to tell him for me. It would be another 24 hours before my dad met his first grandchild, as our NICU had a rule that grandparents could only visit on weekends in the afternoon due to covid. Still, it was a lot more lenient than most NICUs in the UK. At the time of writing this blog post, some weren’t even allowing parents to visit their child/ren together. 

Soon we received another update from the doctors working on Alice, and with them came the news that our baby was finally stable but not yet out of the woods. One of us was allowed to go and see her, but I couldn’t push myself in my wheelchair, so I told Alex to go down and get lots of photos and videos for me until I could go myself. As upset as I was that we weren’t going together, I knew that Alex would be able to prepare me for when I finally got to see Alice. After Alex got back, we were moved to postnatal, so I sent dad home to get some rest before bringing the colostrum we’d harvested to the hospital. I was an absolute hot mess, so before going to neonatal myself to check up on Alice, Alex helped me get showered and changed. He then briefed me on all the rules and what to expect, but if I’m honest, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to be wheeled into. 

Having a baby in NICU is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Seeing your child so unwell and not being able to hold them is tough. Once Alex wheeled me down, and we’d both washed our hands, he took me over to Alice. She looked so unhappy, which make me shed tears once more. She was covered in wires, hooked up on oxygen and on fluids. Her incubator felt like this massive barrier; I couldn’t hold her or do skin-to-skin to comfort her. It was a far cry from how everyone expects the first few hours after giving birth to go. Thankfully, one of the nurses came over to ask if I wanted to put my hand in and comfort her that way, which I jumped at the chance to do. I felt awful for Alex, who couldn’t hold or touch Alice the entire time she was in NICU. It wasn’t until Sunday, when Alice was on transitional care, that he got to hold her for the first time since she’d stopped breathing 2 days earlier. On the other hand, I got my first cuddle on Friday night whilst being able to feed her. However, it was filled with anxiety as the position I had her in for feeding was the same position she was in when she’d stopped breathing 12 hours before. 

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is laying on a pastel yellow and pink coloured patterned mat in an incubator. She is wearing a nappy as has oxygen prongs in her nose, a cannula on her right hand and various wires over her body. She looks very grumpy!
Alice in NICU

Although Alice was out of NICU after 40 hours, followed by 2 days on transitional care before going home, those 40 hours taught me so much about a world few know about. Being NICU parents really showed Alex and me just how strong we are, even if we doubted that strength before. Before going home, we managed to catch up with Paige, the midwife who literally saved Alice’s life and between her and the neonatal doctors got as much information as we could. Unfortunately, not all the questions were answered; we’ll never know the reason why Alice stopped breathing. The fact she did in the first place shocked even the team looking after us, especially as Alice had an Apgar score of 9 just 1 minute after birth and then a perfect 10 at 5 minutes. A few have asked us if my Group B Strep infection caused it or if the reduced fetal movements played a part, which again is something we’ll never know. However, although we were fully covered with antibiotics for Group B Strep, Alice’s infection markers were raised when checked, so she was placed on IV antibiotics for a few days as a precaution. Since we’ll never know what caused her to stop breathing, we have been warned it could happen again. It’s something I constantly hope doesn’t happen, but if it does, Alex and I both know how to resuscitate babies and infants thanks to work. 

September is NICU Awareness Month, and we’re so proud of our little fighter who made it through. We’re forever thankful to all the staff who worked on Alice and got her well enough to come home as quickly as she did. We’re also grateful for the support of Bliss, a charity here in the UK that provides information and support to parents of babies born premature or sick, as well as research into improving care and treatment.

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is wearing a white vest and laying on her back with her head turned to the side in her snuzpod, which has a white sheet with grey stars on the mattress. There is a grey blanket covering Alice and she is asleep.
Alice Now!