While you’re going through your house late in your pregnancy covering all of the light sockets and securing the cabinet doors shut, you might be forgetting a major part of the baby-proofing process. In fact, he might be staring right at you. Your family cat or dog might pose a threat to your new baby. Don’t worry, you don’t have to bring Fido or Fluffy to the pound when baby arrives. However, there are some extra precautions you might want to take in preparation.

Certain studies have linked exposure to pet dander early in life to asthma later on. These findings are not definite and they don’t hold true for every experiment. In fact, other studies show exactly the opposite, and adults exposed to pets as babies are actually less likely to have any problems with allergies or breathing later in life because they built antibodies early on. No matter which study you believe, the simple solution is keeping your home as clean as possible when baby arrives. If you have a cat that sheds a lot, vacuum every day and make sure the cat doesn’t even touch the areas where baby hangs out. For example, keep the cat out of the nursery and never let it near baby’s rocking chair, high chair, or toys. That way, exposure to dander will be limited, but you’ll still get to keep your kitty.

You’ll also need to start supervising your pets more closely after baby comes home for the first time. In addition to keeping the cat or dog away from baby’s things, you need to make sure they don’t threaten the baby at all. Your baby is defenseless, so he or she could suffer when your cat or dog get a little too playful. A minor scratch on your own skin will be painful and susceptible to infection on the delicate skin of a newborn. In some instances, dogs can become jealous of a baby and build up resentment. Watch your dog’s behavior closely after baby comes home, because he might be tempted to take out any anger on him.

All in all, having pets in your home when you bring home a newborn is safe as long as you keep it clean and supervise each pet closely. In fact, adults that grew up around pets are often more sympathetic in their relationships, so the benefits might even outweigh any risks.

Source: RJ Bertelsen et al: Childhood Asthma And Early Life Exposure To Indoor Allergens, Endotoxin And Glucans. Clinical and Experimental Allergy Volume 40 Issue 2 pp. 307-316 February 2010

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