You may well remember your favourite teddy or your security blanket that you had as a child, that you took everywhere and over the years has became a still much treasured dog-eared bear or tatty piece of cloth. And now you find yourself frantically trying to find your child’s favourite toy at bedtime that they can’t sleep without.
So what is it about your child’s comforter that is so important to them and why do they need it?
A lovey or comforter, also called a transitional object was a term first coined in 1951 by child psychologist Dr D Winnicott as “any material to which an infant attributes a special value and by means of which the child is able to make the necessary shift from the earliest oral relationship with the mother to genuine object-relationships.”
A transitional object tends to be chosen by babies around six to eight months old and to have qualities reminiscent of mummy: it is soft; it can be stroked, cuddled and bitten. In this way a lovey helps your little one cope with the feelings of separation, smoothing the edges for when mummy is not there; such as bedtime or going to day care. This is especially apparent at the time your baby starts to understand that they are a separate person from you, at around 7 to 8 months old.
A comforter that smells and feels familiar can be a great trigger for young children’s sleep. Snuggling down with their lovey at bedtime and then again during the night when they come into light sleep, means they are less likely to need you to settle them to sleep
Using a comforter does not mean your child is timid or afraid; rather studies have shown having a lovey can help your child feel comfortable, build confidence and help them on their way to independence.
Whatever item your child chooses it’s best to ensure it can easily be replaced. If it is the only one in existence your little one may be bereft if it gets lost or left behind.
Most children grow out of having a comforter with them at all times and the much loved item may then take pride of place on your child’s bed rather than joining them for every event.