This is the second installment of my Bringing Home Baby series and I’ll be discussing the logistics of sleeping once your baby comes home. When I do my private pre-baby prep sessions, this is topic we talk about early, because sometimes it requires some pre-training for the dog.
There’s commonly three sleeping options for baby:
- Co-sleeping with parents
- Bassinet (bedside or over the bed)
- Nursery (monitored with baby monitor)
Depending on which if these options you’re considering, there’s management and training we need to implement for safety. Before your baby’s arrival your dog may be used to sleeping in bed with you (mine does!) but after your baby’s arrival, depending on where you plan on having your baby sleeping, that may not be a safe option. While you may have an idyllic dream of everyone, dog and humans all cuddling up in the bed and sleeping together, a quick internet news search will yield lots of heartbreaking news stories about infant fatalities while sleeping. Nobody ever imagines their dog could be capable of such a horrific incident but any dog can bite and any dog is capable of injuring or killing an infant, so I implore you to reconsider if you are convinced your dog is the magical unicorn who would never do anything like that. I’ve had client dogs that have bitten children of all breeds (doodles top the list from my client roster) so don’t think only a certain breed bites.
If you plan on co-sleeping or doing a bassinet (regardless if it’s bedside or over the bed), your dog should not be sleeping with you, for safety reasons. You will be getting up for feedings, moving around at odd hours of the night, often in the dark, with a crying baby, and these disturbances to your nighttime schedule can be upsetting to your dog. In the dark, in your sleep deprived state, you’re likely to miss your dog’s body language signs of discomfort if they’re subtle and it’s just not safe to do feedings in bed with your dog there.
Of course you could close your bedroom door and have your dog sleep in your living room or another part of your home, if your dog is comfortable with being separated from you by a closed door. But, if you’re co-sleeping or using a bassinet, and you’d prefer to keep your dog in the same room, then your dog can be separated from the baby, by either being crated or by an x-pen.
Depending on the layout of your room, you could x-pen the bassinet to create a barrier around the baby to prevent your dog from having access to the bassinet or you could bisect your room and put the x-pen at the foot of your bed containing both your bed and the bassinet and having your dog on the other side of the x-pen. You may need more than one x-pen chained together if you have a large room. This configuration may require some pre-training for separation behind a barrier or crate training and should be worked on as early as possible before the baby’s arrival. If your dog is used to sleeping with you, this may be a difficult adjustment and training could take some time if your dog has never been separated from you while being home or while sleeping.
The other option, often considered the safest, is having the baby in their own nursery, closing the door and having a baby monitor in your room to know when the baby wakes up. This allows your dog to have freedom of movement and retain the most sense of normalcy, without a lot of training needed, since there’s not a big change to their normal sleeping routine, other than the sleep disturbances from nighttime feedings and the baby crying. The dog can still sleep with you if that is part of their routine, so many owners prefer this option, as it gives you some dog-mom-dad bonding time (super important during this time!) and doesn’t require extra training efforts when bandwidth is usually already pretty tapped out. If you need additional help preparing for your upcoming arrival, schedule your one-on-one pre-baby prep session today! During this session we review management, enrichment, training, homecoming plans, reducing attention seeking behaviors and you’re provided with lots of handouts with important information on making this transition safe and happy for everyone in the family and give you an opportunity to ask questions relevant to your specific situation. Schedule your session today!
And a reminder that I’ll be doing a free Facebook Live Q&A on dogs and babies with a special guest, on Wednesday March 24 at 8PM ET. Submit questions ahead of time to get your questions answered!