Kaila Weingarten, MS Ed
You’ve seen the kid in the grocery with a little tattered piece of cloth. You shot weird looks at the mom, but when you have your own child, all you want is for them to have their own lovey. My daughter asks to go into her crib so she can twirl the faded pink ribbon of her doggy as she relaxes. In fact, she taught her little sister to say “doggy” as one of her first few words.
So what is a lovey? Loosely defined, it’s an object that provides comfort and soothing, A.K.A. ‘comfort object’, or ‘transitional object’. Most loveys are what you’d think of as comfort items – blankets, or stuffed animals.
Why would you want your child to attach to a piece of cloth? Some babies learn to self-soothe without objects, using habits such as thumb sucking or twirling hair. What about those who don’t? Let’s think about times when you can’t be there with your child. A lovey can be a lifesaver. Contemplate bedtime, once she’s out of your room. How about at the babysitter's? Or even times when you need help comforting your child, such as at the doctor’s office after a shot. Because the lovey always stays the same, it is soothing. And don’t think that your child likes it more than they like you. Dr. George Askew of Zero to Three
points out that a transitional object is often an indicator of a strong parent-child bond. Essentially, the object is meeting baby’s need for love and attention even when mom or dad is not actually there.
When do you introduce a lovey? Some babies will attach to a blankie early on. I waited until my daughters were a year old before putting anything in the crib, to avoid the SIDS risk. Another consideration: think about choking hazards. Don’t give your child anything with small, detachable pieces (even pieces that are sewn on but could come off such as plastic eyes). You may want to purchase more of the same comfort item, once your child settles on something. Use it interchangeably, so your child learns to love them all. Also, get something washable! That delicate hand knit blanket? Just keep it for special occasions. Go for something lightweight, manageable, and replaceable.
Do you want to acquaint your baby to his new “friend”? Have the lovey be a part of your day. Use it to play peek-a-boo, or snuggle with you. You can sleep with it or put it under your shirt to impart your smell. Incorporate the lovey into the bed and naptime routines
Not every child will connect with a transitional object, so if your child doesn’t want it at first don’t fret. You can keep trying. Some children will adopt an object as they grow older.
Don’t ask your child to share the lovey. There are some things you can’t share (Would you share your diamond ring or car?) and this is one of them. You can avoid this issue by putting the lovey away during play-dates.
The lovey should not turn into a punishment. It’s an attachment object to be relied on during stress. Your child will have an easier time calming down from that tantrum
if she can have her lovey.
Don’t worry about taking it away as your child gets older. He won’t go to college with the tattered edge of the blanket!
Does your child have a lovey?