2/24/09

Transitional Objects/ Loveys


Transitional objects are a great sleep association to use because they are a condition that doesn't change while baby is sleeping and has partial awakenings. It acts as an object that gives your child comfort and a sense of control when you are not able to be with them. Research has shown it to be a totally healthy practice. Geroge Askey, MD (a pediatrician at Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the healthy development of infants and toddlers) states that use of a transitional object is often a sign of a
strong bond between parent and child and that the child's need for love and attention has been consistently met. If used only for sleep times and given to your child during the sleep routine it can help your child settle more easily and help with the final separation when they go to bed. In fact, sometimes it seems like my son is dying to get into his crib just so he can lie down with his blanky and rub it between his fingers.

A transitional object is usually chosen by a child between the age of 6-18 months. For safely it should not be introduced to a child while sleeping before he is 4 months old and is able to roll and move his head easily (The No-Cry Sleep Solution, p. 34). Many children keep transitional objects for years which, once again, is totally healthy. If your child or toddler doesn't have one you can try to offer things you think he'll like. Just remember that he gets to make the final choice on what he wants as this object, and that if you constantly play this comforting role for him he'll have no reason to choose one.

I actually just used the same blanket to put my son to sleep with since birth and eventually it turned into his lovey. I would tuck it tightly into his mattress so he couldn't get twisted up in it and lay him on it. This worked out great for him since he still doesn't cuddle with objects so I'm not sure he would have ever chosen a lovey if it wasn't for this. Plus, this blanket acted as a great sleep cue even was he was a tiny baby and wasn't yet attached to it.

Additional Points:
  • Even if you co-sleep it would be worth giving a transitional object a try since it will help with future separation.
  • If you are trying to introduce your child to a lovey, you may want to place the it in between you and your child while you feed him or rock him to get him used to it. You may also want to place the lovey in your shirt for a short time so that it will smell like you and be more comforting for your child.
  • As your child gets older he may hold his lovey whenever he needs extra comfort or security.
  • Make sure the lovey is safe. That means no little eyes or small pieces that can come off, no removable parts like clothes, nothing that a young child can suffocate with etc.
  • I would not count a pacifier as a lovey. Or at least I would make sure to offer something else along with the lovey. The pacifier is going to disappear some time and baby needs something else to give him comfort.

4 comments :

  1. My baby is 4.5 months (20 weeks), and I want to help introduce a transitional object. I am wondering when it is safe to let him take an object to bed. You say under 4 months is not safe, so does that mean any time after 4 months is fine?

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  2. Anonymous,

    The No Cry Sleep Solution is the only place (that I can think of right now) that states an exact age/ability of child when it is ok to start using a transitional object in bed. Generally, the main thing talked about by "experts" is safety of the object you let your child keep in the crib. It needs to not be a choking hazard but small at the same time. It needs to not pose a suffocation hazard (which is why baby needs to have good head control and be able to roll) or possibly strange the child. I know I have read articles that say "nothing in the crib until 12 months", but at the same time, it seems like the majority of articles will say that it is ok as long as baby is old enough (whenever that may be...) and has good body/head control.
    This link talks about crib safety: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5030.html.

    So in short, if your son is able to roll and has good head control, it is most likely ok to introduce a safe lovey to the crib (use some suggestions listed above to introduce the object). Of course, it is always a good idea to check with your pediatrician first before doing new things :)

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  3. I started introducing one of those small plush blankets with a stuffed animal head to my son at about 3 months as a lovey. I would stuff the blanket part between the wall and crib, so that the head rests on the crib railing. That way, my son could always look at it without it becoming a danger. It's become his "friend" who he likes talk to and smile at before sleep. It also calms him down when, say, I put him down to sleep/nap a few minutes late and he's getting cranky. I would "nod" the head so that his friend says goodnight to him, and then walk out the room.

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    Replies
    1. Great idea Tina and a cute way to say goodnight! Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Rachel

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