Life with a newborn baby is a bloody hard adjustment as it is, let alone throwing in the guilt that you just don’t have as much time for your precious fur-baby anymore! I know for me, this has been one of the hardest things to deal with as a new mum. It’s now been just over three years since I had Harper and 19 months since I had Paxton and I think I am managing it all pretty well now. So today, I am going to share with you my five tips for dealing with that ‘dog guilt’ and a new baby plus the juggle of baby/kids and a dog.
(1) Be prepared.
If you love your dog the way I love mine, be prepared that you will suffer from guilt after you bring your baby home. It’s just physically and mentally impossible to give as much time to your dog as you used to. First tip is to not be too hard on yourself and to really just enjoy bonding with your new baby…
(2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
First off, as I think I forgot to mention this in previous posts, please make sure you have a plan for your dog when you go into labour/hospital. We decided that Jase would not stay in the hospital with me overnight; he would go home each night and be with Cooper. Feed him and walk him. He did this for both kids, and to be honest, we both loved it! Jase loved the last of his uninterrupted night sleeps, which meant he could really help me during the day and I loved that time in hospital overnight to bond with my babies. Now I know this might not work for everyone, but it definitely worked for us. Plus, I felt much better knowing that Jase was home with Cooper and then second time round, that he was home with Harper and Cooper. As a bonus I had organised to have my brother on call both times, just in case we needed someone to come and feed or walk Cooper over those few days and especially to help whilst I was in labour. Clearly from the pics below, Cooper loved having Matt come visit and play with him while we were in hospital.
Once we were home from hospital, that’s when the guilt started, it literally set in instantly. For the first three weeks I was very sore, so while my body was healing, we paid for a dog walker to come three times a week just to take a little bit of pressure off Jase and I. Plus, Cooper LOVED it! If you don’t want to pay for that extra help, try asking your neighbour, a friend, a family member, I’m sure someone who knows and loves you will be more than happy to help with a dog walk here or there just to take some pressure off you.
(3) The Walk – make it daily exercise for you and your dog.
This is a big one for me. I started this from about the time Harper was three weeks old. Once my body recovered from labour, I made a daily walk or two a part of our everyday lives. Even now that the kids are a bit older, I still stick them in the pram every morning for a walk. Yes, I couldn’t do it without a little bribery every now and again in the form of a snack, but now they are used to it and we love it. There is endless chitter chatter, book reading, singing and of course sibling bickering that goes on in the pram, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s a win/win for everyone. It’s a great way to knock off some of those post baby kilos, your kids get fresh air and of course it’s excellent exercise for your dog… This is also why teaching your dog to walk nicely with the pram is so important from early on. Please note, this might not be suitable for all dogs. Cooper is great on lead, he is not reactive to other people or other dogs, so walking with a pram and him was safe for me to do. If your dog is reactive or hard to walk on lead, I highly recommend you have a positive trainer come and help you before you take your baby and dog on a walk together on your own. In the meantime if you can go with someone else, so one person pushes the pram (or wears the baby in a baby carrier) and the other has the dog, that would be ideal. But it is a great way to include your dog and baby in an activity together, keeping everyone safe.
(4) Playing games in the house – this can be great to entertain both the dog and your kids.
Obviously, there are times when you can’t get out. It’s raining, it’s sleep time and the baby won’t sleep in the pram anymore, your body is still recover, or you just can’t be bothered! We introduced a game in our house called “Where’s Lobby”. Pretty much Cooper’s favourite toy is a red lobster called Lobby – and we hide it around the house and make him find it. He loves this game and so do the kids! There are so many different and fun games you can play; you can hide treats around the house and make your dog find them, play fetch with a ball down a hallway, play tug of war, you could even play hide and seek with your dog. Plus, there are also various toys you can buy that dogs can play with on their own, for example, the ones that dispense treats etc. to help keep them busy and stimulated.
(5) Just being with your dog, is often all they need.
As I mentioned earlier, don’t be hard on yourself. Even though you might be sitting there thinking that you wish you had the energy to walk or play with your dog but you’re just too tired or sore to do it. Dogs are social animals. Just being with them, in their company is sometimes all they need. Sometimes, when I’m dropping the kids at my parents or my in-laws, I bring Cooper along for the car ride so he can have a change of scenery, he loves it. And on those days where you feel you just can’t get them out of the house or you just don’t have the energy for that game of tug of war they are asking for, just give your dog an extra cuddle and a pat and let them be in your company. Even call them up onto your bed to have a sleep with you – as long as your baby is safely in another room sleeping, or will another adult.
Your dog needs your love and companionship, but don’t forget they also need mental and physical stimulation too. Things like kongs, licki-mats, treat dispensing toys, are also another great idea to have pre-preprepared. You can now buy these from my online shop!! You can freeze a whole bunch of kongs or licki-mats so they are ready to go on those days where you just don’t have the energy to get your dog out. Yes, they are a great treat, but they are also great for mental stimulation. Have a read of this article too for some other enrichment ideas that might help to give your dog some extra mental stimulation during this time.
Do your best, ask for help, share the load and try not to suffer too much guilt (like I did)!
I would love to hear from others who also suffer this crazy guilt and how you manage it – leave me a comment in the comments section below.
Make sure to have a read of all articles from this series if you haven’t already…
- Does my dog know I’m pregnant?
- My tips to help prepare families with dogs for life with a new baby
- Introducing your dog to your new baby – or as I like to call it – the Homecoming Phase!
- Click here for the Family Paws Baby and Dog Safety Handout – it’s a great visual with the do’s and don’ts.
And as always, please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with this.
PS. I am very excited that this article was also featured on Mamamia !