A special lovey provides wonderful comfort and can be a treasured keepsake for years to come.
What is a lovey?
Do you remember having a lovey when you were little? Many of us have fond memories of a cozy “blankie,” a beloved teddy bear or other soft toy that we loved to cuddle when we were growing up.
A lovey can be any item that provides your child with comfort and a sense of security—usually it’s an especially huggable small blanket or toy. Your baby’s first comfort item might be a handkerchief-sized, silky binkie lovey, a buttery-soft swaddle, or an extra-plush blanket.
As children grow, many form a strong emotional attachment with one special blankie that they prefer over all others, or they may choose a favorite stuffed animal or doll as their primary comfort object.
Why do children need loveys?
Child development experts share many reasons why children benefit from having loveys in their lives. As babies grow, these beloved objects can serve as “a bridge between the mother and the external world,” according to infant mental health researcher Alicia Lieberman, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
Providing your little one with the opportunity to bond with a comfort item promotes emotional health and instills self-confidence as they start exploring the world. Throughout childhood, loveys can provide psychological support and relieve anxiety, especially in times of change, such as starting preschool or transitioning to a toddler or big kid bed.
How loveys help your child with sleep
Research has shown that cuddling with a lovey promotes calm and relaxation, which makes the transition to sleep at bedtime or nap time easier for little ones. And, importantly, having a reliable comfort object, whether it’s a silky blanket, a special stuffed animal or other soft item, gives your child an opportunity to learn how to self-soothe. This is an essential step in helping children learn how to sleep on their own.
Whether you are encouraging your baby to fall asleep independently or directing a toddler back to bed after a bad dream, providing a comforting lovey for your child to snuggle with makes the process go more smoothly.
Start by making sure that a special comfort object is included in your sleep-time routine. Tucking your little one in with a lovey can help sleep come faster. And if your child wakes during a nap or in the middle of the night, having a lovey close by often helps them fall back asleep on their own.
How loveys help relieve separation anxiety
A normal part of early childhood development, separation anxiety can arise during infancy, toddlerhood and the preschool years. In fact, separation anxiety is often considered a healthy indication that young children have developed secure emotional attachments to their caregivers.
Some little ones start experiencing separation anxiety around 9 months, while for others it can peak during the toddler years, between 18 and 24 months old. This is often when children begin to spend longer periods away from home, as they enter daycare or preschool.
Loveys can help children manage the stress of separating from you and adjust to school transitions in an emotionally healthy way. “In the earliest of classrooms, transitions are experienced over and over,” explains Colleen Goddard, a New York City child development specialist. “A parent says goodbye and the child responds in a cathartic release of emotion. It is in these moments where the healing power of transitional objects is fully utilized.”
Research also shows that having a lovey can help little ones better handle other stressful situations, such as visits to the doctor’s office and medical procedures.
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How loveys boost confidence and independence
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, holding on to the comforts of the nursery might actually help your little one become more independent. Child psychologists often describe loveys as “transitional objects,” because they help little ones make the necessary transition from the complete dependence of infancy to a growing sense of independence and self-mastery as they move into childhood.
For preschoolers, having a cozy blanket or huggable toy with them gives them a boost of confidence as they head out into the world. We design our lightweight backpacks just for these littlest kids, and we add exterior straps and pockets so that blankies and other special friends can ride along. Bringing a lovey to preschool, on playdates and on overnight visits can help ease any stressful feelings your child might experience.
The right age to introduce a lovey
While swaddles, plush blankets, and stuffed animals are popular gifts for newborns, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep only with a pacifier for comfort for the first 12 months. “After your little one has passed the one year mark, you can introduce a handkerchief-sized silky blanket or hand-sized cuddly stuffed animal,” according to pediatrician and baby sleep expert Dr. Harvey Karp.
With that recommendation in mind, many new moms begin to introduce a soft lovey to infants during daytime nursing and supervised playtime. A handkerchief-sized blanket, such as a binky lovey, is a good choice for this first comfort item. (One of our best-selling gifts for newborns, these ultra-soft, small blankets come with a clever loop to attach to your baby’s pacifier.)
Swaddling blankets also make wonderfully cuddly loveys. The same soft-and-stretchy swaddle that you use as a snug newborn wrap can take on new life as a beloved comfort item for older babies and toddlers. Other children love the ritual of being tucked in each night with their favorite Plush Patoo™. These heirloom-quality baby blankets are luxuriously soft and have a slightly weighted feel (just as with adults, this sensation is very calming and promotes sleep). As little ones become more independent, they often choose this kind of extra-plush blanket as their #1 comfort “blankie” for bedtime.
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How to choose a lovey
Ultimately, your child will decide whether a particular blanket or stuffed animal will become their one-and-only special comfort item. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that all potential loveys are well-made and without hazards, such as buttons or other small parts that could come loose. And, of course, any fabric that will be next to your baby’s delicate skin should be free of irritants and harmful chemicals. (We make our binky loveys, swaddles, and blankets with softer-than-cotton, naturally hypoallergenic viscose from bamboo.)
Texture, especially cuddly softness, is a primary component of a child’s experience with their lovey, so washability and long-lasting softness is critical. Especially if your child’s comfort item is a cozy swaddle or blanket, you’ll want a high-quality fabric weave that comes out of the dryer soft and fluffy, no matter how many times it’s been washed.
Another consideration is durability. Many little ones treasure their loveys through childhood and beyond, so look for high-quality craftsmanship. Ideally, your child’s lovey should be able to stand up to years of cuddling.
Common misconceptions about loveys
Some new parents worry that their child will become overly dependent on a lovey or that they’ll have a hard time letting go when it’s time to begin elementary school.
However, starting around age 5 or 6, many children outgrow their loveys on their own. Others happily go to school knowing that their beloved stuffed animal friend or blanket is still available for comfort at home. This can be a big help as they take on new developmental challenges or during times of stress or illness.
In fact, many children and even some adults enjoy keeping their loveys as they move through their lives. These days, many young adults still treasure their childhood loveys, even bringing their favorite comfort item with them to college—all the more reason to ensure that your child’s lovey is durable enough to become a lasting keepsake in the years to come.
Does your baby have a special comfort item?
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