Does your child have a special comfort object or lovey?

Today a mom asked me if her child should have a comfort object or if that would be a sign that her child was insecure.

Most of us have seen a toddler carrying a worn blanket or very loved and tattered stuffed animal. My one daughter carried a life-size doll with her whenever we went shopping, visiting or traveling. A special blanket or stuffed animal can provide comfort, courage and confidence to our growing child.

 Wikipedia,  describes a comfort item as: A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations, or at bedtime for small children. Among toddlers, comfort objects may take the form of a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a favorite toy, and may be referred to by English-speaking toddlers as blankey and lovey.[1]

IMG_1342For a small baby we provide emotional support for our child. That newborn baby is dependent on us for all of their physical and emotional needs. As the child grows they gain more and more independence and ability to handle some of those needs themself. They learn to sit without our assistance. They learn to crawl and then to walk alone, which opens the world to them.That is a sign of a healthy growing child. Everything is brand new as they explore their world and they do not know what surprises, either good or scary they will find.

On your child’s path from dependence to independence there will be many bumps and bruises along the way. A transitional or comfort object can give your child the emotional support needed to gain enough courage to keep exploring and growing. You, the parent, cannot always be present to provide that support your child needs. Their special stuffed animal or blanket can be a substitute for you.

A child who does not have a comfort object is limited, needing to stay close to the parent at all times for that support. A comfort object or lovey might provide your child the courage to face a new situation on the playground or going to pre-school without you. The lovey helps your child build their own coping skills and your child will set that lovey aside as they gain confidence in their own ability. It helps them transition from dependence to more independence.

When do children attach to a special comfort item or lovey?
Most children begin to develop an attachment to an object around their first birthday. After the first birthday is also the time it becomes safe to allow a stuffed animal or favorite blanket in their bed.

How do you encourage an attachment to some object?                                                                      Some children are going to choose their own favorite object. If you have something you would like your child to connect with, there are some ways to promote that attachment. Every time you go to comfort your child, such as when they fall or stub their toe, bring that stuffed animal or blanket up next to the child’s face as you comfort them. Whenever you sit and rock your child or read a book together, bring the blanket or the stuffed animal up close to the child’s face to make it a part of that cosy situation. Use that comfort item or lovey at bedtime. Your child can use that favorite blanket or stuffed animal to get to sleep at bedtime or if the child wakes up during the night.

Many children will lose interest in their comfort item as they get older but some keep a bedtime attachment to an object for a very long time.

  • If your child has a transitional or comfort object here are some tips:
    1. If possible stock up on a “spare” lovey. That can be very helpful if the favorite animal or blanket was left at Grandma’s house or your favorite restaurant.
    2. As your child get older, limit the use of their comfort object to bedtime or in a stressful situation such as an injury.
    3. Never laugh at your child for having a favorite blanket or stuffed animal and do not try to “accidently lose” their special item.
    4. Allow your child to decide when he/she is ready to stop using their “lovey”.

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Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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