Introducing A Comfort Object
by Divya Rathore
A comfort object, also known as a ‘lovey’, ‘security object or ‘transitional object’, is anything that your baby becomes attached to because it gives them some comfort and security. It could include a blanket, a stuffed animal, a muslin, or even something completely random like a toothbrush or hairbrush! As long as it’s safe for your child, it could be anything.
My eldest daughter became very attached to a little bunny, we named ‘Jubby’, when she was around 10-months. She took it with her to nursery and slept with it day and night. It was given to her as a gift when she was born so we didn’t have an identical backup when the bunny was temporarily misplaced or needed a much needed wash!
A comfort object isn’t a substitute for mum and dad, but it can help little ones to feel some security when their main caregivers are not around, which can be helpful if you are trying to help your baby to fall asleep more independently or sleep in a new environment, such as their cot on in their own room. A security object may also help some little ones to connect their sleep cycles when they wake during the night.
How Common Are Comfort Objects?
The use of transitional objects is widely considered normal in infants and beneficial to healthy development. (Winnicott, D.W, 1953). Research suggests that in Western society, attachment to a security object is common among infants, with one study finding as many as 60% of tots demonstrated some attachment to blankets, (Passman et al, 1979), with the attachment growing from 6 months and peaking at around 18 months.
However, in other cultures, particularly those in which young children spend much of their time, both night and day, in close proximity to their mothers, attachment to security objects have been found to be much lower.
Infants who do usually gravitate to a comfort object start to develop some attachment around age 6 to 12 months (Passman et al, 1979), but for some babies it can be earlier and for others later.
How Will My Baby Attach To A Comforter?
Sometimes babies will naturally attach to something like a blanket or teddy, in which case, you should avoid taking it away from your child. If your little one doesn’t naturally gravitate to an object, you can also try and condition your baby to attach to an object by making them associate it with mum/main caregiver.
TIPS TO ‘CONDITION’ A COMFORT OBJECT:
- Incorporate the object daily into any special or intimate moments you share with your baby, such as feeding or cuddles. That way, your baby will associate it with you, and in turn, comfort and security.
- Keep the object close to you and baby during the nap and bedtime routine.
- Try and carry out some role play with the object and show it some attention and affection.
- Try and keep the object close to you, you can put it under your top and sleep with it, so that it has your scent. If you are breastfeeding, you can put some of your breast milk on it.
- Tuck the object between you and baby as you’re trying to get them to sleep.
- Stay patient and give it enough time – it can take a while for your baby to become attached to something.
- Try and have two of the same objects, just in case one gets lost or dirty.
- Not every baby will become attached to a security object, so if your baby doesn’t seem interested or ready, after a few weeks, that’s okay, don’t force it.
AND DON’T FORGOT THE SAFETY ADVICE:
- For babies under a year old, they can fall asleep with the security object while you are with them, but once your baby is asleep and alone, you should always remove it from them.
- Ensure the security object is not a choking or suffocation hazard in anyway.
Passman, R. H.; Halonen, J. S. (1979). “A developmental survey of young children’s attachments to inanimate objects”. Journal of Genetic Psychology. 134 (2): 165–178.
Winnicott D. W. (1953). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena: a study of the first not-me possession. Int. J. Psychoanal. 34 89–97.