Perhaps the most widely familiar security blanket is that of the famous Linus van Pelt, of Peanuts fame. The young boy who is seen frequently toting his beloved security blanket, often sucking his thumb.
Turns out, even adults find comfort in certain objects, whether it be a stuffed animal, pillow, or blanket. In fact, one study found that 34 percent of American adults were found to sleep with their own comfort objects for the sake of reducing anxiety.
In much the same way, children also find comfort in familiar, sentimental objects - comfort objects or, "loveys" - ranging from teddy bears to a favorite shirt of Daddy's - but there's more behind these loveys than just comfort.
What Is A Lovey?
A lovey is an item that children develop an attachment to that provides them with comfort, most commonly at bedtime in the beginning, but which carries on through other childhood transitions.
Hence, science terms these things "transitional objects," and they are useful tools to help children go from being completely dependent infants, to becoming independent, and sometimes beyond.
For some parents, however, the question of whether their baby should have a favorite blanky or stuffed toy for comfort can be difficult because of certain myths surrounding the phenomenon.
Specifically, some might believe having a transitional object will make their children be perceived as "weak" or that having a stuffed bunny is just a cesspool for bacteria. While certain health concerns can arise from a frequently-held object after days or weeks of it being bitten, sneezed on, snuggled, tossed, drooled over, etc., these are easily mitigated through washing or choosing a healthy, organic best buddy for your baby.
Transitional Object Attachment
In 1953, London Pediatrician Donald Winnicott described a transitional object as a normal, healthy part of a child's development. Experts have since expounded upon this theory and found that linked a transitional object to profound growth including:
- Ego and body ego development
- The birth of memory, libidinal object constancy, and the capacity for symbolization, creativity
- The capacity for object relations and empathy
If you can think of a time when you - as an adult - experienced a transition, perhaps a move or a career change, chances are there was something that provided you with comfort during that transition (maybe a pet who moved with you or a plant from your old desk to your new one).
5 Reasons Comfort Objects Help You And Your Baby
So should your baby have a security blanket or comfort object? The short answer is, yes. Here are five particular reasons why.
Do you have a routine you perform that brings you comfort? Maybe you have a particular person you call when you're stressed or you take five deep breaths to calm yourself. Babies and children don't yet know how to meditate or do yoga poses, but they do know the scent and touch of their caretakers.
When mom and/or dad need to move away from baby, having the comfort of their safety blanket reminds them of their caretaker's love and attention. Psychologically, this is termed exposure effect, and it references the comfort that comes from something familiar.
Aids In Development
Your baby may be a tiny little bundle of joy for now, but from the instant they're born, they begin to mature, inevitably discovering themselves in many unique ways. A security blanket or other transitional object helps your baby, first, by comforting them when you or other caretakers are not around. It reminds them of you.
As they grow, the object will continue to provide them with comfort during stressful transitions. According to experts, research has shown that children three years of age going through a medical examination experienced less stress in the absence of parents, as long as they had their security blanket. Further, children with security blankets in preschool settings "not only reduced children's anxieties in novel situations, they also frequently increased children's capacity to stay on task and learn at a greater level."
Provides Comfort To Take Tiny Risks
As your child begins to grow and experiment with their own individuality, they will be more comfortable taking little risks, such as going to a different room for a moment, that helps them develop more of a sense of self. Having their favorite stuffed bunny with them, they are not as afraid to venture out of mommy's eye shot for a moment.
Frees Up Some Time For Parents
Let's face it: Parenting is a full-time, 24/7 job and sometimes we just need a break. When your child has their transitional object, they're more likely to let you take that much-needed, well-deserved five- or ten-minute break.
Interestingly, research conducted by Bruce Hood of the University of Bristol in Britain, showed that babies and children ascribe a certain level of essence to their loveys. That is, when given the option to make a duplicate of their favorite security objects, the majority of children either refuse to have their objects "copied" and, of those who did, very few wanted the new one, preferring the original.
The researcher is quoted as saying, "We [anthropomorphize] objects, look at them almost as if they have feelings. The children know these objects are not alive but they believe in them as if they are."
There are clearly many reasons to support your baby having a security blanket or other object that provides them with comfort and security, as long as it is not something that causes a risk of suffocation or other physical harm.
Some even advocate letting your child keep their loveys as long as their heart's desire. After all, it is considered a transitional object so, as transitions come and go, eventually, the purpose of providing security and comfort - and the means - will transition, as well.
Take Babysoy’s little customer Elliot and his beloved "Yaya," for example. Yaya goes everywhere with Elliot and is in every family picture. One day Yaya went on a little adventure in Target when Elliot’s parents accidentally left him there. Elliot’s mom frantically posted on Facebook to search for Yaya at the store. Eventually the team at Target spotted him and mailed Yaya back with a cute note and photos, shown below. So now the family has a backup Yaya in case of emergencies. When Elliot’s parents asked him what he wants from Santa, he said “Peanut butter and friends for my Yaya!”