Blankie, Lovie, Stuffy, oh my! Whatever you call it, comfort items are a wonderful tool to offer children during sleep times to help promote independent sleep skills after 12 months. If you are looking to introduce a bedtime buddy for your child, this blog will gives you everything you need to know about why, how, and when to begin.
What is a comfort item?
A comfort Item is tool used for your child to feel secure and comforted, typically used during sleep times or in situations when the child may need extra comfort. These items can take on many different names – lovie, stuffy, buddy, or blankie. Some products are created with the purpose of being a comfort item, like small blankets or stuffed animals. Other times children develop an attach to other things like, dolls or even toy trucks.
Why a comfort item is helpful?
A comfort item that your child has attached brings a sense of security and comfort, especially during sleep times when parents are not present. Separation anxiety peeks around ages 13 -18 months, so this is a great time to offer an item that your child can squeeze for comfort when learning independent sleep skills.
How to Choose an Item
This is really up to you and your child! You can use a stuffed animal, blanket, a doll, or even t-shirt or pillowcase of a parent. I have seen children attach to so many different things, even plastic toys. If your child already has an attachment to a particular item, use that! If they do not currently have a preference, then choose something cuddly you think they would love and use the tips below to help nurture attachment.
When to Introduce:
Six months is a great age to begin introducing a comfort item making it part of your routines outside of sleep times. Before 12 months, you will not be placing the item in their crib for sleep times, but there are so many other ways you can help your child bond with it:
Make it part of your sleep routines.
Snuggle the item during your sleep routine before naps and bedtimes. Bring it along on walks or car rides. Have your child say “goodnight” to it before bed. Make it part of the family!
Give the item a name.
This can be super simple, like blankie, buddy, or lovie, but this makes it special and helps your child begin to recognize what it is.
Offer it at times when you know extra comfort is needed.
This could be when your little one is sick or during car rides, or maybe when you drop them off with a babysitter.
Offer it any time your child needs extra comfort throughout the day.
We all have those off days and children are no exception. A comfort item may be just what they need and it offers you a bit of reprieve as well!
Once your child is 12 months, we can now start offering their comfort item at sleep times! Here's how:
Introduce at bedtime first.
Night sleep comes much easier than day sleep. Adding a new item into their crib at naptime can be just enough distraction to keep them from falling asleep. At nighttime, the drive to sleep is much higher and the body is ready for a long stretch of night sleep. Your child may be a little distracted by the newness of a bedtime buddy, but the drive to sleep will beat out the desire to play much more quickly. Each night will get better!
The next day you can begin offering it at naptime.
If you notice the buddy is hindering daytime sleep more than helping, then remove it and offer only at bedtime for 3-4 more days. They may just need a little adjustment period before jumping into nap times and that’s okay!
Other thoughts to keep in mind:
It can take some time for your child to adjust. If it takes a little longer to fall asleep the first night, that is okay! It will continue to get better each night.
It can take some time to develop an attachment, especially if they did not have attachment to it beforehand. Personally, it took my little one a month to attach to a blankie. I simply continued offering it at sleep times and one day it finally clicked!
It’s okay if they don’t use a comfort item. Some children become super attached to a buddy and others just never do and that’s okay! Every child is different. Give it a month or two and if the attachment doesn’t happen there’s no need to force it. Or maybe try again when they’re a little older and can better understand it’s purpose.
A comfort item is a great tool to help promote independent sleep, but it is not a magical solution to end all bedtime battles. If you are struggling with consistency in your child’s sleep, I would love to help! I will get to the root of your sleep struggles and help you put healthy sleep habits into place that will last a lifetime. Let’s connect!