Blankets, stuffed animals, mama’s old shirt, many children get attached to a specific object before they reach their first birthday. If it hasn’t happened to your baby, chances are your little one will choose a lovey (“transitional object”) sometime soon. And that can be an excellent thing.
You know what? If you think about it, you’ll probably remember being attached to a favorite teddy bear or blankie when you were little.
Lovey is the term used to talk about any comfort object that a baby or toddler brings to bed, providing comfort and soothing. It may very well be a toy, a blanket, a spoon – really any object. If it’s soothing and safe to keep in the crib, it’s ok.
Sometimes, the child will self soothe with his or her thumb or prefer to be close, touching the mother’s hair, ears, armpits (yep! We’ve heard it all). In these cases introducing a lovey can be a welcome alternative to exhausted parents.
Kids choose these objects, not just as a way to feel like they aren’t alone, but also to have a sense of comfort and safety. These transitional objects can be a great way to soothe babies when mom is not around or when parents are trying to get the baby to sleep alone.
When does my baby need a lovey?
At about four months old, maybe a little older, your baby starts to become aware that she (he) is a separate person from her (his) mother. This discovery may lead to separation anxiety; after all, mom may disappear – and that’s what happens! Mothers go back to work or need to run errands, and the baby realizes mom is not around all the time. Babies may feel lost, fearful, especially when it’s time to sleep. And that’s when a lovey can come in handy. A transitional object to make your baby feel safe.
It may be a good idea to use an object that smells like mom. When it’s time to wash it, just make sure you have time to keep it on the mom’s body for a while before giving it back to the baby. Some specialists even recommend a lovey with moms smell as a good way to help babies adapt to a Daycare.
What to choose? How to pick a transitional object?
Parents may offer an object like a little blankie or a stuffed animal. Still, in the end, it’s the baby who gets to decide what becomes a lovey. The will make this choice for emotional reasons. The baby will give the special object value, and it will somehow represent the caregiver. To choose a lovey is a healthy, good development milestone. The child can make the necessary shift from the earliest oral relationship with the mother to genuine object-relationships. The importance of the transitional object (and the term) was first published in a1953 by Donald Winnicott, an English pediatrician, and psychoanalyst. He was especially influential in the field of object relations theory and developmental psychology. Under the title “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena. A Study of the First Not-Me Possession.”.
What if my baby doesn’t have a lovey?
In general, babies will choose a lovey by the time they are ten months old. But, it is also very common for some babies to never attach to an object. Parents may offer different options, and still, nothing feels unique to the baby. It’s no problem at all. In fact, you shouldn’t insist on a lovey unless your kid’s way of soothing brings distress like pulling on the mother’s hair. In which case, finding an alternative can be a lifesaver.
Specialists suggest most kids will leave their loveys behind by the time they turn five. But its ok if the child holds on to it for years to come as long as it’s not causing distress at School and is a source of bullying.
Tips for a good “relationship” your baby’s lovey
· Stock Up on a Spare Lovey – some kids won’t be able to sleep without their comfort object, and you will need to wash them eventually.
Safety first – avoid putting any items in the crib that may be a SIDS risk and don’t allow loveys that have small, detachable pieces(like stuffed animals with little, plastic eyes sewn on that can become choking hazards)
· Don’t forget the lovey if you’re going on a trip, or it may ruin your plans to have some fun.
· Don’t hide or “lose” the lovey even its old and has seen better days. Remember that it’s a comfort item for your child, and forbidding it or “losing’ it will cause unnecessary distress. Let kids detach when their time comes.
· If your child is six years old and is still dragging a lovey everywhere, show alternatives to feeling safe when she or he is getting anxious or insecure. Never force a child to separate from a transitional object.
Worth noting – Some pediatricians say using loveys is fine at four months. Others prefer to wait until the baby is nine months or even a year. If you have any doubts about the right time to introduce a lovey or the safety of your baby’s chosen object, talk to your little one’s healthcare provider.