Growing up, my brother and sister had special blankets, my other sister had a stuffed animal, and I had my pillow – we were all attached to them when it came to sleep! I’m pretty sure both of my sisters still have theirs, my mom hid my brother’s in fear that he’d one day throw it away, and despite my best efforts to keep track of it (name and phone number sharpied directly on the pillow), it’s long gone.
Did you ever have something like this??
So what is a lovey?
A lovey is most often a small breathable blanket, a stuffed animal, or another comfort item that provides extra comfort to children, specifically in regards to sleep.
For those of you wondering, yes, a lovey could technically be considered a sleep prop, however it’s a sleep prop similar to blackout curtains, a sound machine, or a swaddle/sleep sack; they are all very helpful tools in helping your child both fall and stay asleep, however they don’t require anything from parents beyond the bedtime routine.
While a pacifier might seem to be the same kind of idea, it’s not! Unlike a blanket or stuffed animal a child can simply cuddle close to their body, a pacifier requires a physical response (sucking!) in order to engage with it.
So even if a baby is able to wake up, find the pacifier, and place it back in her mouth without needing a parent’s help, this is causing more broken sleep, and that physical response may actually keep her in a lighter sleep much of the night. And while pacifiers are helpful in the newborn days, they are not often conducive to independent or consistent sleep from four months old and on.
But I digress…
When can you introduce a lovey, stuffed animal, or other comfort item?
According the the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is not safe to have anything in your child’s crib until she is 12 months old, and it’s at this time you can offer a small blanket or stuffed animal.
I have heard of some parents using a lovey with their baby when they are younger, like on car rides, during feedings, when their child is upset, etc, so that once their little one is 12 months old, they’re already familiar and/or attached. I’m not organized enough to think ahead like that, but I love that idea!
Also, if you’re reading this and your child is older than 12 months, it’s not too late! You can introduce a lovey at any time beyond 12 months.
(Remember how I said a lovey could technically be considered a sleep prop? You can sleep train your baby before 12 months old, so she could have great sleep skills by the time you introduce a lovey! The lovey is now just an added bonus. If you choose to sleep train beyond 12 months old and use a lovey in the process, the lovey is not going to do the work of putting your child to sleep, it could simply provide some extra comfort as your child is learning this new skill.)
So how do you introduce a lovey or stuffed animal?
I suggest introducing your child to a comfort device at bedtime first – daytime sleep is just harder, so let’s not throw a twist in there just yet. Start by including your child’s new lovey in your story time. Your child may choose to hold it, or you can hold it. Show her how you can hug the lovey, and have her try the same.
For the first few nights, simply see how your child reacts to the lovey during your routine. Once she starts acknowledging it, seeking it, or seems to enjoy it during your bedtime routine, lay the lovey down with your baby in her bed. Don’t be surprised if your little one takes extra long to fall asleep at first, as she now has a fun new buddy joining her for sleep…she’ll fall asleep eventually!
Your baby may also completely ignore the lovey the first several times it’s in the crib, or it may even end up on the floor…that’s okay, too! Continue offering it for naps and bedtime, and see what happens.
Some popular loveys:
- Jellycat Soothers
- Aden and Anais Security Blankets
- Soft baby dolls
- Plush toys- I’ve seen toddlers who are really attached to a hard or noisy toy (i.e. guitar, or car), so their parents find a stuffed one, instead!
- Parent’s shirt- for families who have been co-sleeping, or for children who are used to more parent support in the night, sleeping with something that smells like the parent is a helpful comfort item to start with.
Do you HAVE TO give your child a lovey?
Nope! In fact, I tried really hard with my oldest and despite my best efforts and buying a variety of different blankets and baby dolls, she just couldn’t have cared less. Her sleep sack actually acts as a lovey to her!
Simply because your child is attached to a blanket or stuffed animal will not automatically make her a great sleeper. It could, however, help with daycare sleep, or when you have a babysitter, or when you travel, as the lovey is one more piece of comfort and home when something seems off.
But at the end of the day, it’s sleep skills that will make your child a great sleeper, not a specific product!
Extra tips when introducing a lovey or stuffed animal:
- Sleep with your child’s new lovey for several nights before giving it to your child. Giving it a familiar and comforting scent could help your little one attach!
- Keep your lovey in your child’s bed/your child’s room. As soon as that lovey starts migrating into the living room or car, it’s bound to get misplaced. And no one wants a bedtime melt down and frantic search due to the missing lovey! Which leads me to…
- Buy two of the same lovies, and switch them out every once in a while so you can wash one, in case one is misplaced, for use at daycare, etc.
- Choose a lovey that is washable!
- For older children who have a zoo of animals and blankets they love, try to limit the actual items in bed with her to two; we want her to actually sleep rather than play!
Remember, a lovey, small blanket, or stuffed animal is NOT going to be the piece of the puzzle that all of a sudden fixes all of your child’s sleep challenges. So if the above information is just too overwhelming, you don’t have to introduce your baby to a comfort item!
It could, however, make your child a little more comfortable going to sleep, especially in new places or when circumstances have changed. And it’s super cute when little kids love on their lovies.