When it comes to motherhood, dogs have it relatively easy: Not only do they only engage in active parenting for a couple of months (puppies grow a lot faster than human babies), but they don't waste any time worrying about keeping up with parenting trends or whether or not they're up on all the latest studies. They just trust their instincts and let nature take over — and most of the time, their puppies turn out just fine. Seems like a way less stressful way of doing things, so what are some parenting hacks we can learn from dogs?
Our canine counterparts might not have opposable thumbs, but they're generally known as pretty good moms as far as animals go; in fact, there have even been stories about human children raised by wolf packs. (And not just Mowgli from The Jungle Book, either — as one article by the BBC revealed, there have been various confirmed cases of "feral children" cared for by animal parents.)
None of which is to say that you should actually give hire your family dog as a babysitter, but there's no denying that these beloved pets know a thing or two about raising their young. So why not borrow a page or two from the doggo parenting playbook?
1. Don't Waste Your Energy Trying To Please Anyone (Besides Your Baby)
Every new mom can relate to the feeling of wanting to snap at well-meaning visitors who try to get close to her newborn baby — and this instinct is exactly why even the most docile of dogs will growl at her human family if they try to approach her litter.
As an article on PetHelpful explained, after a mother dog gives birth, a surge of powerful hormones takes over her brain. These chemicals are meant to facilitate the bonding between mama dogs and their pups (who are born completely helpless, unable to even regulate their temperatures), and also make mom both extremely devoted to and protective of her very vulnerable babies, which can result in what's known as "maternal aggression."
Of course human moms have their own hormonal cocktails to contend with (for pretty much all the same reasons), so who cares if your cousin-in-law thinks you're being rude because you won't let her hold the baby? At least you're not actually baring your teeth!
2. Consider Eating Your Placenta
You might think of eating one's own placenta as a celebrity-driven trend, but in fact, dogs have been doing it for — well, probably for as long as dogs have been dogs. There's even a name for the practice: placentophagy. While experts aren't entirely sure why dogs and other mammals are driven to eat the "afterbirth" (or afterbirths, as the case is with multiples), there are some theories, according to WhyDoDogs.com.
As the site explained, the placenta is high in prostaglandins, which help stimulate the uterus to shrink back down to regular size (it's high in protein, too). Another possible explanation is that this compulsion dates back to when dogs lived in the wild and wanted to both keep their dens clean and free of anything that might attract dangerous predators.
Luckily, human moms don't have to eat their placentas for those last two reasons, but plenty of women still believe it's worth doing. While there hasn't been much research done on the topic, according to the American Pregnancy Association, possible benefits include "increased release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to normal size and encourages bonding with the infant," as well as a restoration of blood iron levels and an increase in milk production.
3. Know When To Go Free-Range
Mother dogs might be all about helicopter parenting in the early days, but after those first weeks pass, she switches right over into free-range mode.
"She will start to encourage the puppies to be more independent, usually encouraging them to play with other pets or humans in the family," explained an article on The Nest.
With curious pups on-the-go, her job becomes more about making sure they don't get into any serious trouble while they explore. So if your tendency is to hover over your toddler at the park and hold her hand every step of the way, try letting her climb and experiment on her own (while you watch from a few feet away, naturally).
4. Make 'You' Time A Priority
Just because a mother dog is totally committed to give her pups her undivided attention at the start doesn't mean she doesn't also value a little personal space, especially after a few weeks. As she begins the process of socializing her little ones, she'll also begin "discouraging clingy behavior and punishing some incursions of the pups into her space," leading animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman wrote on PetPlace.
Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone "punish" their child for invading her space, but there's certainly something to be learned here from our furry friends: Moms can't give themselves entirely over to the needs of their families. It's important to make time and room for ourselves, too! (Otherwise... growling.)
5. Feed Your Kids The Same Food You Eat
When it's time to wean her pups, a mother dog in the wild will usually start the process by regurgitating the food in her stomach and feeding it to her babies (lots of pets do this, too). As veterinarian Ernest Ward wrote for VCA Hospitals, this somewhat disturbing process is "a natural maternal function and nothing to be worried about."
Obviously, regurgitating your lunch for your baby isn't something you're going to want to do, but there is something to be said for the sort-of human equivalent of letting your little one feed herself an assortment of soft "grown-up" foods cut into tiny pieces instead of baby-specific purées (sometimes called "baby-led weaning").
As registered dietician Clancy Cash Harrison explained to Parents, this approach gives babies an "opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma, and color of a variety of foods."
Dog moms are pretty clever, as it turns out! Just don't copy everything they do. Because they can be pretty gross, too.