Falling Asleep 08/02/12

Why it is no bad thing if your child needs a comfort object to get off to sleep at night.

By Andrea Grace – Sleep specialist

Parents often ask me if a comfort blanket or toy is useful for helping their baby or toddler to sleep well and generally feel more secure.

The simple answer is yes, for many babies they are very useful indeed.

Comfort blankets and toys are known as transitional objects and as the name suggests, can be very useful in helping babies and toddler make the transition from awake to asleep. They also help little ones feel more secure when separating from parents at the nursery or crèche for example. Because a comforter helps a child to feel safe, calm and happy, its use should not be discouraged, no matter how grubby and worn it looks. If your child has a comfort object it is a healthy sign that they are growing up and learning how to cope with their independence.

At least half of all babies and toddlers have a comforter, and most will choose their own object at around 6 months old and their need for the comforter is at it’s greatest between 18 months and 2 ½ years old.

Babies tend to choose items with a soft texture and a familiar smell, such as a pillow case, soft toy or even mummy’s nightie! If your child doesn’t choose something of their own accord, there is no need to encourage it but if your child is a poor sleeper then it may well be worth a try.

Some parents worry that a comfort object left in the cot might be dangerous. Children should definitely not be left unattended with anything with a ribbon or cord on it or any toy with parts that could be chewed or sucked off and choke a child [a teddy’s eyes or nose for example.] It has also been recommended that the object should be removed from the cot when the baby is asleep.

The other worry of course is that the comforter is becoming a source of trouble, for example if your child looses it.

If the comforter gets lost or left behind somewhere it can be very distressing for a child. For this reason, if you notice that your child is forming an attachment to a particular object, you should try and get hold of another identical one. Alternate their use so that each becomes equally worn and also so that one can be washed whilst the other is being used.

And don’t worry if your child wants to keep his or her comforter into older childhood and beyond. Many a University hall of residence bedroom is graced with its owner’s much loved blanky!

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