I don’t think we ever outgrow our lovies.
I graduated from my stuffed animals to my pillow over the course of thirty years, but I still have that one thing that I can’t stand to sleep without. (Shout-out to my husband, who takes a close second in that category.)
My first son had a stuffed giraffe named “Maggie” that he absolutely adored. She had a tag on her back that he rubbed with his thumb and finger as he was falling asleep. He had it for years and wore the tag right down to a thread. It was a touching, bittersweet moment just a few years ago, when he handed her to me and asked me to put her on a shelf; she was no longer needed.
My other two children developed a strong fondness to their blankies. I’ve sewn holes in them for so long now, I think they’re more patch than blanket. I love seeing the bond they form with a bedtime friend.
There’s actually some science behind our love for lovies. You might think it’s all familiarity and comfort, and, well, you’re right, but the reason is still pretty neat.
We humans, despite our adventurous nature, always like to have a sense of familiarity with our surroundings. It keeps us anchored, in a way. No matter how foreign and confusing things might get, we’re always aware that there’s a world we’re familiar with, there’s a safe, secure home we can return to, and that little memento is a reminder of it.
One of the major reasons plush items like blankets and stuffed animals are so popular with kids is that they absorb smells. They smell like the child, like his mommy, like familiar fabric softener and the family dog, like his bedroom and the couch, where he feels warm, safe and secure.
That, plus the fact that they’re typically soft and pleasant to the touch, makes for a wonderful source of comfort in a world where just about everything is at least a little unfamiliar.
So what could be better for a child who’s learning to sleep on their own than to have that little source of comfort and familiarity right next to them when the light goes out?
I’ve always been a big fan of kids having a lovie in their crib, but I do find there’s a fine line between a lovey and a sleep prop, and we loathe sleep props over here. We view sleep props with intense scorn and resentment for the hours of lost sleep and endless middle-of-the-night wakings they’ve caused when a child rouses slightly and can’t locate their lovey down at their feet, or over the side of their crib.
Sleep props are doubly-nasty in this case, because they tend to impede a child’s attachment to a lovie. If you’re just about to start the Sleep Sense Program, or have just started recently, this is an ideal time to introduce a lovie to your child, and say goodbye to the pacifier.
And, of course, there’s a much bigger issue when it comes to safety. A large blanket or a crib full of stuffies poses a serious danger to your child while they’re sleeping. (A bunch of stuffies also creates a huge distraction for a child that’s trying to sleep, but obviously, that’s not as big of an issue.)
I did find a great solution to this problem, from an outfit called Bitta Kidda who I’ve grown to absolutely love. They make a sleep sack with a built-in lovie attached to the chest. It’s short enough that you don’t need to worry about it getting into baby’s mouth, and located in a spot where baby can easily find it when she wakes up at night. It’s also got a dress-style zipper that finishes under the arm, so baby can’t unzip herself, but it’s still super easy for Mommy to get Baby in and out of.
My only grievance with them is that they didn’t design it 13 years ago. It would have been a miracle for my first born.
So the short story is yes, I’m all in favor of a lovie in the crib. Just make sure it’s not something they’re going to lose, get in their mouth, or can’t find when they wake up.
Oh, and one final piece of advice… buy two matching ones at the same time and switch them out for one another regularly. That way, they’ll both smell, feel and look the same, so if one of them gets lost, or is still in the wash come bedtime, you’re prepared.