Children and pets have always had a special bond, but a recent study shows their connection starts even earlier than you think. Growing up with pets teaches children empathy, confidence, and responsibility, and now science says babies even benefit from their furry friends in the womb. So if you’re debating whether to get a new dog or have a baby, why not both?
After collecting data from 746 infants and their mothers, scientists have determined that women who have pets while they’re pregnant have healthier babies.
A team of researchers at the University of Alberta conducted the study over a four-year time period. They recorded whether or not the soon-to-be mothers had pets during their second and third trimesters as well as about three months postpartum.
When they gave birth, researchers evaluated the babies’ health, paying special attention to what they call “gut health.” Specifically, they were looking at two different kinds of good bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira. Both beneficial microbes are found in the digestive tract and assist in digesting resistant starches. They’re linked to low body mass index, lean muscle development, and lower risk of obesity.
When compared to children whose mothers weren’t exposed to pets while pregnant, newborns with pets had higher levels of the good bacteria. Those extra microbes will give the babies an extra healthy boost as they continue to grow and develop.
Out of the expecting mothers with pets, 70% had dogs. Between midnight feedings, diaper changes, and the other perils of parenting, the idea of being responsible for yet another life—even if it’s a furry one—can seem intimidating. But in truth, the benefits of welcoming a pet into your life may outweigh those concerns.
Besides, potty training a puppy is great practice for those late night diaper changes.