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Most babies and toddlers like to have something soft and comforting, such as a blanket or toy to help them feel secure as they fall asleep.
While you may be embarrassed by their tatty condition or fear what will happen if they get lost, is there any problem with your child using a comfort item?
Comfort items, also known as comfort objects can be very useful in helping little ones settle and go from waking to sleeping. They can also help babies and toddlers feel more secure when they're away from mum and dad. That's why they're known as transitional objects. They help your child transition from one state to another (e.g. waking to sleeping) and provide feelings of comfort and security when a baby or toddler is away from familiar people and surroundings.
Because these comforters help your child feel safe, calm and happy, you shouldn't discourage them, no matter how worn and grubby they look. They are actually a sign that your child is developing skills to help them cope with their independence.
Most babies and toddlers will choose their own comfort item at around 6 months old. They tend to choose something with a soft texture and a familiar smell, such as a favourite toy, comfort blanket or piece of clothing. If your child doesn't choose something themselves, there's no need to encourage it, but a comfort object may be worth a try if they don't sleep well.
Although babies and toddlers choose their comfort item early, you may notice that they need it more aged between 18 months and 2 ½ years old.
While it's fine for your little one to use a baby comfort blanket or toy to help them sleep, it's important that it's safe for them to do so.
You should never leave your baby unattended with anything that has a cord or ribbon attached to it, or any toy with parts that may come off when sucked and chewed (e.g teddy's nose or eyes).
It's also a good idea to remove the comfort item from baby's sleeping area, cot or bed once your baby is asleep.
Many parents worry about the effect that pacifiers can have on little one's developing teeth and mouth. Look for dentist approved pacifiers which are shaped to suit your baby's mouth.
Parents sometimes worry that their child will become so attached to a comforter that they become inconsolable without it. Losing that precious toy or blanky can then become a real source of stress.
If your little one is particularly attached to a comfort item, it's a good idea to have another one in reserve. Or, if they're attached to something larger, like a comfort blanket, you may find you can cut it into smaller pieces to have some spares. Remember to alternate them so each comforter is equally worn and picks up the same kind of smells.
Most children will gradually wean themselves off their comfort object, with it gradually becoming less important as they develop their independence. But you may still find the odd much-loved blanky in University halls of residence.
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