All three of my boys have had a “Blankie.” I could never get any of them to suck on a pacifier but as they each entered toddlerhood they would latch on to a certain blanket that would soon become their constant companion.
These blankets became their go-to comfort objects; a critical component for a good night’s sleep and the ultimate healer for any scuffs and scrapes. They would collect as much love as they did dirt from the floors they were constantly being dragged across.
My youngest son went through a phase where he demanded that his blanket join him for every bath, inside of the tub. It became a constant battle that led to me finally allowing it on a few occasions. He soon came to the realization that he did not really like his now much heavier blanket once it was completely drenched and that he preferred his blankie to be dry. Now he carries it to the bathroom and places it in a safe corner, forlornly glancing back one more time before getting in.
Is it healthy for a child to be so attached to a comfort object? The experts say Yes! Dr. George Askew, a pediatrician at Zero to Three, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the healthy development of infants and toddlers says that these objects are a sign of a strong bond between parent and child, not an unhealthy attachment; noting that a child who seeks comfort with a security object is often one whose need for love and attention has been met consistently by his parents.
It is a part of a child’s development. When babies begin to understand that they are individuals and are separate from their parents, they may seek comfort from a transitional object to ease their anxiety. When they become mobile, they enjoy the freedom it brings but may need to bring something familiar along with them for comfort.
It is also normal for children not to get attached to a transitional object. These children will usually find another way to self-soothe, such as sucking their thumb, twirling their hair, or even staring at a special spot on the wall before they go to sleep.
If your child does latch on to a special object such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or some other kind of “lovey” it has benefits and drawbacks for you as a parent. It can be a great source of comfort when your child is encountering a new or potentially anxiety causing experience, such as beginning daycare or school. I always make sure to bring along blankies for any visit to the pediatrician or dentist. They are also an excellent way to get a child ready for bed, and pair perfectly with cuddles and Storytime.
It is, however, an object; and objects can get damaged or lost. Be sure to remember your child’s comfort object while traveling – unless you are fond of sleepless nights. We have misplaced blankies at the grocery store, (I will forever be grateful to the sweet older man who found it in the parking lot and brought it inside) at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, (they were kind enough to mail it but it was a rough wait) and one unfortunate blankie met its demise by the side of a river while on a fishing expedition.
It can also be challenging when it’s time for blankie to visit the washer and dryer. Some children will even initially reject their beloved comfort object after is has been washed because it doesn’t “smell the same.”
Some people believe there is a time when a child must give up their favorite lovey. I am not one of those people. Experts warn that any criticism or denial of the chosen toy may lead to attachment difficulties later in life. I have heard the traumatic harrowing tales of those who have been forced to leave their comfort objects behind. My husband had a strict grandmother who at one point threw her granddaughter’s favorite blanket into a burning barrel in front of her because she was, “getting too old for that thing.”
Experts say that it is usually best to wait for a child to give up their comfort object on their own. Most children will do this as they grow and begin to experience a wide variety of social experiences such as birthday parties and play dates. For the most part they have a much easier time making transitions than they did earlier and simply don’t need the added comfort.
Also, if your child’s friends are no longer toting their comfort objects around, chances are they won’t want to either. Some children will hold onto these objects, even into adulthood, as a memory of when they were little, but the intense attachment and use as a comfort object will have faded.
I have a special place in my heart for each of my boy’s blankets. They remind me of that fleeting time when all it took was a hug and a blankie to make any problem or pain disappear. I am grateful that they had them as a companion to sleep with at night so that I was able to get some rest too, and I find that I miss these blankies as my children grow the same way I miss the chubby little fingers that were constantly clutching them.