Transitional Objects and Loveys

My daughter, Stella, sucking her thumb while holding onto her lovey

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 (I always chose one for my children and they were really into it by 6ish months). 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.

With my son Joshua, his blankie turned into the one he used to lie on top of to sleep when he was a newborn (I cut it up for him to use when he was older). With my son Jacob, his lovie was a blanket that had a pacifier attached to it. I wrote about pacifier holders here. When Jacob got older, we got rid of the pacifier but he kept the small blanket. With Stella, I used a thin and small muslin security blanket. I prefer small muslin security blankets over other things because they are so breathable. Aden+anaislulujo and hudson baby are my favorite options because of how breathable and small they are. Swaddle designs has some small security blankets as well, but they are a bit thicker. I wash my muslin blankets in a lingerie bag and dry on low. And I never wash them with anything that has velcro on 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.


  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?

  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:

    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 :)

  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.

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


  4. Hi is introducing a lovey at 2yrs old to late? My son still co sleeps and wakes to nurse at night. I am trying to transition him to his own bed and I wonder if this may help.

    1. unknown,
      I think it's worth a try to introduce one. Just make sure to consistently give it.

      good luck!

  5. Hi rachel, my daughter is 6 months old and she uses a pacifier to sleep and a zipadeezip. She's been waking up 3-4 times a night bc she's lost her binky. It's usually under the bed. Do you think if she had a lovey in there she'd go back to sleep without it on her own?

    Also she moves so much in her crib and sleeps in weird positions. Do you think it would be safe to have the lovey in there? She covers her eyes with her arm already and she is wearing clothing that kinda goes over her face. She sleeps fine like that. Also she's a stomach sleeper. Not sure if that makes a difference.