Parents take great care to keep their babies in optimal health through the use of eco products and accessories, gentle cloth nappies, and breathable linen blankets, but are we too liberal when it comes to our pets? Social media is abuzz with the cutest images ever of babies sleeping by puppies and kittens, yet experts warn against allowing our pooch or moggy to sleep in the crib with our baby. The key consideration is overheating: our pets are usually loving and love cuddling with our baby, but pediatricians and researchers warn that when it comes to pets, too much love could be a bad thing.
Overheating and SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is thought to arise because babies have an immature arousal centre in the brain – that is, when they have difficulty breathing, they are unable to wake themselves up. Risks for SIDS include sleeping on the tummy, and being overheated. For this reason, new research indicates that it is best to wait until a baby’s first birthday to use pillows, stuffed toys, and too many layers of clothing. Pets can provide welcoming warmth to adults, but it is probably best to not allow them unsupervised access to a baby’s room, to ensure that baby stays nice and cool.
Pets can also hamper sleep quality; studies have shown that pets who sleep in the same bed as owners tend to hamper sleep quality because of snoring, movement in and out of blankets, and whimpering. Interestingly, adults who slept in the same room (but not the same bed) as their pooches, enjoyed optimal sleep quality! The sense of companionship and security provided by the family dog, somehow makes it easier to relax and sleep well.
The Benefits of Having Pets from Babyhood
Recent research has shown that families with pets have higher levels of two microbes associated with lower risks of allergy and obesity. Infancy is a critical time in life during which gut immunity and microbes co-develop, say scientists, who postulate that exposure to certain bacteria early in life (such as those contained on pets’ paws) can build early immunity. The positive effects of exposure to pets start when babies are in the womb, and continues during the first three months of a baby’s life.
Scientists have also found that pets in the home can reduce the risks of transmitting a certain time of strep during birth, which causes pneumonia in newborns and which is prevented by administering antibiotics to mothers during delivery. Additional research shows that babies who grow up in households with pets are less likely to develop respiratory infections as toddlers, and that those who are in close contact with dogs generally have fewer health problems.
Pets bring many psychological and physical benefits to everyone in the home, especially babies, whose immunity can be strengthened through their four-pawed friends. However, it is vital to ensure that pets are not left unsupervised with babies, since they could increase a baby’s risk of overheating and SIDS.