Comfort objects such as blankets or stuffed animals are very common among babies and toddlers. Many parents wonder if it is ok to encourage the use of these comfort objects. Professionals that work with children ensure parents that there are many advantages to using comfort objects, also called transitional objects, and very few negative impacts.
Coping Without Parents Nearby
According tohealthychildren.org babies tend to form an attachment to an object between 8 and 12 months. This is when they become aware that they are a separate person from their parents. A transitional object helps them cope when babies begin to realize their parents are not always immediately present.
Choosing the Object
As you see your child begin to favor a toy or blanket you may want to encourage this attachment. Keep the blanket near you when you are feeding or rocking your baby. Before a baby is 12 months old it is recommended to remove the object from a baby’s crib while they are sleeping to prevent any risk of suffocation.
Steering your child’s attachment to a specific item may make things easier for you too. You can help them become attached to a small blanket or small plush toy, rather than something large or difficult to transport and clean. Introducing an exact double right away can help in situations when the object is being cleaned or is lost. Sometimes children will reject the object if it feels too new or different from their old one even if it looks exactly the same.
What to Expectsuggests that setting parameters right away will also make things easier for parents. You may want to only allow the object at night and nap times or when parents are away. You may also want to consider only bringing the object out of the home when the child will be in a stressful situation such as going to the doctor or traveling away from home. It can be stressful for parents if the object must go everywhere!
While some parents may view a transitional object as a sign of weaknessDr. Sears reminds parents that transitional objects actually help children become more independent. They also promote emotional health by encouraging your child to develop deep bonds which will be desirable throughout their life.
A child may start to mature out of their objects between the ages of 2 and 5, but there is no need to rush the process. They will give it up when the time is right for them or the object simply disintegrates from wear.
Ultimately a comfort object will help your child go to sleep easier, feel more confident, and make important emotional connections. What comfort objects are your kids attached to?