My sister- in- law gave our oldest daughter a little lamb stuffed animal for her first Easter when she was about 9 months old. The bond was swift and immediate and to this day (11 years later) Lammy is still hidden under her big pillow in her big bed with all of her big-kid stuff. I
secretly hope she takes Lammy off to college.
So strong and adorable was the attachment with Lammy, that my sister- in -law gave our other three daughters a similar stuffed animal in babyhood - all equally precious - but no other child has bonded as fiercely with theirs the way Ella did. That's not to say they don't have loveys too.
Madeline has "baby dog" and a tattered toddler pillow with her name embroidered on the case. Charlotte has a taggie blankie she still lays down on her pillow each night and Hannah has "bunny" who is beautiful and soft and given to her by a very special person from my early days as a mother.
A lovey is a transitional object; something your child can turn to for comfort in the night when you are asleep. Having a lovey can be a great tool for transitioning into more independent sleep as your child gets older.
So what's the secret and how do you pick the perfect lovey? I've listed some suggestions below, but have also come to learn that loveys are a bit like rescue dogs (we have two of those too)- sometimes the right one picks YOU!
First, the timing has to be right. The APP recommends waiting until age 1 to introduce anything into your baby's crib. You should talk to your pediatrician about the time that is right for your baby based on his or her strength, motor skills, and development. Even if you do wish to go earlier, most babies aren't ready to really bond strongly to a *thing* (an inanimate object) until they are closer to 9-12 months old anyway. Trying earlier than that might be less safe and it might not even work.
When the timing is right, pick the perfect lovey! It should be small (think washcloth sized), and made of light material. Avoid any beady eyes, loose clothing, bows or ribbons, or pieces that could come unattached. Our favorites are the Aden and Anais "Issie" and the Angel Dear Blankies, but you may have another small stuffed animal or doll that is designed for sleep and approved by your pediatrician in which your child has already shown a special interest.
Finally, work on forming the attachment! You might think these things just happen (and sometimes they do), but it's often helpful to encourage the bond. When you've picked out a lovey, or your child has shown interest in one and the time is right, begin to take it with you everywhere! Not forever - just for a few weeks. Swing it on the swings at the park and send it for a ride down the slide. Sit it in the shopping cart next to your child while getting groceries or give it a little snack on the counter while your child has a meal. Tuck it it to the car seat or stroller while out for a walk or between you and your child while you nurse or cuddle with a bottle, and treat it like the friend you hope it will become for your child. Within 2-3 weeks you'll begin to use the lovey just at sleep times (nap, bedtime) and perhaps a few other special times too like at a religious service or on a long car trip, but by that point the attachment will have developed!
When you respond to your child in the night you can begin encouraging, "hug your blankie" or, "where's bunny?" to remind your child of its purpose.
Some babies - especially babies who bed-share or nurse throughout the night - don't find use for a lovey. Their parent takes the place of a lovey or they just don't seem to be interested. But for babies who are transitioning into more independent sleep throughout the first year it can be a great tool to assist in that.
And let's face it, aren't photos of your baby asleep cuddled up with their special friend just the cutest?