As all parents know, your number one priority at all times is your baby’s safety.
When your little one is awake you will likely have eyes on them at all times, but when they sleep – which is the only opportunity for you to get some much needed rest – you need to ensure their environment is completely safe.
So if your baby is starting to become attached to a comfort object or lovey, you’re probably wondering when it’s safe for them to sleep with it.
To reduce the risk of SIDS, experts such as the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommend waiting until your baby is over 12 months before letting them sleep with a lovey or soft toy.
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When Can A Child Sleep With A Lovey?
The AAP recommend parents wait until their baby is at least 12 months old before allowing them to sleep with a lovey.
This also applies to pillows, quilts and stuffed toys, all of which could be used as loveys depending on what your baby selects as their comfort object.
This recommendation is in place to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), because having objects in a baby’s crib can lead to suffocation and strangulation.
What Is A Lovey?
A lovey (or lovie) is simply any object that your baby attaches to.
They are normally soft and cuddly (think soft toy like a favorite special teddy bear or security blanket), and babies love them because they look, feel and smells comforting.
One of their biggest selling points is they can be taken almost anywhere.
So your child can take their lovey with them for emotional support when dealing with stressful experiences like starting daycare or preschool, moving from a crib to a toddler bed, having nightmares and even when they are traveling.
There is no set age as to when a baby gravitates towards a lovie, but it’s usually somewhere around the 9-12 month mark, or from around their 6th development leap.
One thing to point out is that not all children have one, which is of course absolutely fine, especially if they have other ways to self soothe.
Do They Help Babies Sleep?
Yes, many parents find that they can help their baby sleep better.
While young children are not afraid of the dark, they may have difficulties getting to sleep for several other reasons.
For example they may have separation anxiety, are struggling to adapt to a change in routine or are going through some other sleep regression.
This is where a lovey come in, because it is a familiar object that provides comfort and reassurance to your child.
The whole point of a lovey is that your child should bond so strongly with it that its mere presence is enough to sufficiently “replace” mom or dad during those times when you’re not there (such as when settling to sleep or when waking in the middle of the night).
How To Introduce A Lovey (With Safety Tips)
1. Think Safety First
As we saw above, the expert recommendation is that your baby should be 12 months before they can sleep with any objects in their crib.
You should make sure their lovey does not have any small parts which may come off and become a choking hazard, and there are no long strings or ribbons.
If it’s a soft toy, the safest option is one that isn’t too large or heavy – ideally it should be something that can be easily picked up by your child with just one hand.
2. Give Your Baby A Few Options
While parents may offer some “suggestions” as the what the lovey should be, ultimately it’s your baby who will decide.
So let them gravitate to whichever soft object they desire provided it’s safe and practical.
And once decided, it’s important to give it a name so you and your baby know exactly what you’re referring to!
3. Have A Back-Up
A great tip from parents in the know is that if at all possible, you should buy an identical version of your child’s lovie.
This will allow you to alternate when one needs washing, and to still have one should the worst happen and the item gets lost.
As with anything your baby comes into close contact with, you should also wash the lovey(s) before introducing them to your little one.
4. Ensure It’s Ever Present
When introducing your baby to their new lovey, make sure it’s there all the time.
In practice this means is should be with your child for meals, naps, bedtime (see below), playtime, when out of the house and even beside them when riding in their car seat or stroller.
5. Include During Bedtime Routine
Whatever you do with your child around bedtime, it’s a good idea to do include and do the same with their lovey.
So if the lovey is a stuffed animal, try brushing its teeth, let it be part of story time, and say goodnight to it (now you see why it needs a name).
Incorporating the lovie into the bedtime routine will also help your baby associate the object with sleep.