Your replacement can come in many forms — a stuffed toy, a blanket, a muslin cloth, or a particular pillow — but a toddler's security or comfort item (also known as a lovey) can help in many ways, especially in sleep training. It's considered a "transitional object" that brings comfort to your child when he is about to sleep.
A lovey "should be purely associated with sleep," sleep coach Gabrielle Weil said during the Smart Parenting "All About Babies" Workshop held last April 14 at Discovery Suites in partnership with Belo Baby.
Weil continued that the relationship between a child and a lovey can become "magical" and a mom's tool for sleep training. But, as much as it's a positive object in your child's life, it could become a nuisance.
We presented three scenarios to Weil and here's her expert advice how to deal with them:
My toddler needs to bring his lovey with him everywhere he goes, even to school. It's a security and comfort item, so naturally, if your child is feeling a bit insecure, he or she might want to bring their lovey with them, Weil explained.
"Keep it in the bed or the sleep space. Don't let the kids trail it around and use it as a toy. It stays in bed, and they only get to see it when it's time to sleep," she stressed. "If they take it out and you don't want them to take it out, exchange it for a different item," Weil added.
We accidentally left my daughter's lovey at home, and we're out of town. I was afraid we'd lose it during travel. "If you leave your child's lovey, yes, they might not sleep. This is assuming they can sleep on their own and stay asleep on their own," Weil said.
If she is dependent on it, you should start thinking of having two or three of the same lovey as a back-up or one that's always in your travel bag. You could also consider having a lovey for travel, one that you need to introduce to your child way before you go out-of-town.
My son is already turning 10, and he still sleeps with his lovey. Should I force him to sleep without it? How can I wean him off it? Weil explained a lovey is not like thumbsucking or using the pacifier that could get out of hand. Since it isn't harmful, there was not an age limit exactly when he needs to give it up. But this was another reason it should be kept in the bed.
Forcibly taking the lovey away "is literally like removing a loved one from them," Weil said. She added it was almost cruel to do so because of a "very emotional link" to you, his parent. "It's what allows them to abandon themselves to sleep in the mother's absence."
That said, if you still would want to wean your child off his or her lovey, pediatrician Dr. Jack Maypole, M.D., suggested in an article on Fatherly, to plan and time it carefully and have everyone, even the nanny and grandparents, on board, and consistency is key.
Make sure your child is well-adjusted and isn't under a lot of stress. Similar to discontinuing pacifier use or thumbsucking, the idea is to make the lovey less and less available to your child. Rewards may also help encourage your child to leave it at home. One last note: Don't throw it as your child might need it when they're in great need of comfort, such as when you're away for several days.