The Magic of Loveys

“Loveys” “Blankies” “Teddies” Those worn and tattered pieces of comfort to babies and toddlers. These are truly magical items. They immediately help a toddler calm down when upset, frightened, or feeling the pangs of separation from a parent. These are officially called transitional objects and it is quite common for infants and toddlers to develop an attachment to a special blanket, a piece of material, or a special doll or stuffed animal. The object has usually been near the child while nursing or snuggling with the primary caretaker, usually the mother, and then the object “becomes mother” to the child. This is the “transition” and the object can take the place of the mother in her absence. This can help a child sleep alone or stay with a baby-sitter.

There is nothing wrong with children having “loveys” They are not harmful and as far as I know no child has ever become ill from one. Not every child will develop an attachment to something and it is very difficult for a parent to make this happen. It has to happen on it’s own. You can try by keeping a special soft piece of soft material between you and the baby when they are about 6-9 months of age while cuddling or nursing, however, just like with finger sucking, these are things that develop in their own way despite parents’ best efforts. In other words, the magic occurs without our help.

If the object is forgotten, lost or washed, the child might experience significant distress since they are very dependent on their object. I still remember a former patient of mine, a little girl who had lost her special “bunny” in the supermarket. Her parents contacted the local media and an article in the local paper helped a search get underway. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of sympathy generated as many people remembered their own “special items” from their childhood.

The loss of an object should be treated with respect and a parent must acknowledge to the child that this was something very special. If a blanket has become so tattered and dirty, some parents have cut off small pieces of it over time until it becomes much smaller and more manageable. The need for transitional objects is more common in younger children and most children will give up carrying them everywhere by age 4-5. They will still be emotionally significant (maybe for life) and your child may want to keep them in a safe place in his or her room.