Most babies and toddlers like to have something soft and comforting, such as a blanket or toy to help them feel secure as they fall asleep. While parents may be embarrassed by their tatty condition or fear what will happen if they get lost, is there any problem with your child using a comfort object?
Comfort objects can be very useful in helping little ones settle and go from waking to sleeping. They can also help babies and toddlers feel more secure when they’re away from mum and dad, at nursery for example. That’s why they’re known as transitional objects. They help your child transition from one state to another (e.g. waking to sleeping) and provide feelings of comfort and security when they’re away from familiar people and surroundings.
Because these comforters help your child feel safe, calm and happy, you shouldn’t discourage them, no matter how worn and grubby they look. They are actually a sign that your child is developing skills to help them cope with their independence.
Most babies and toddlers will choose their own comfort object at around 6 months old. They tend to choose something with a soft texture and a familiar smell, such as a favourite toy, blanket or piece of clothing. If your child doesn’t choose something themselves, there’s no need to encourage it, but a comfort object may be worth a try if they don’t sleep well.
Although babies and toddlers choose their comfort object early, you may notice that they need it more aged between 18 months and 2 ½ years old.
While it’s fine for your little one to use a comfort object to help them sleep, it’s important that it’s safe for them to do so. You should never leave them unattended with anything that has a cord or ribbon attached to it, or any toy with parts that may come off when sucked and chewed (e.g teddy’s nose or eyes). It’s also a good idea to remove the object from the cot once your baby is asleep.
Another common worry is your child getting so attached to a comforter that they become inconsolable without it. Losing that precious toy or blanky can then become a real source of stress for parents.
If your little one is particularly attached to a comfort object, it’s a good idea to have another one in reserve. Or, if they’re attached to something larger, like a blanket, you may find you can cut it into smaller pieces to have some spares. Remember to alternate them so each comforter is equally worn and picks up the same kind of smells.
Most children will gradually wean themselves off their comfort object, with it gradually becoming less important as they develop their independence. But you may still find the odd much-loved blanky in University halls of residence!
Adapted from an original article by Andrea Grace, sleep specialist.