Are you trying to get your baby to take to a comfort object?
For the first few years of life babies take comfort predominantly from one thing, or should I say one person – their mother. This isn’t a reflection of their love for their mother being greater than their father. Simply they have spent nine months growing inside her and in the case of breastfed babies, a significant period of time receiving nourishment from her post birth. To a baby their mum is their home. They know her inside and out. As they grow, their bonds with other family members will increase, but in the early days it is natural that they need to be close to their mother whenever they are scared, overwhelmed or overstimulated. Some people incorrectly say “the baby is using you as a dummy/pacifier”, or “they have developed a bad habit of always needing to be held or fed to sleep”. The reality is though, that dummies and pacifiers are a replacement for the real deal, not vice versa.
The best thing a mother can do is to allow her baby to snuggle and feed as often as they need. Often though this is not possible. Returning to work or even just needing a couple of hours ‘me time’ necessitate that babies sometimes need other things that comfort them too. When it comes to sleep, if the baby has an object which they strongly associate with their mother they may transition between sleep cycles independently, feeling as if they have a piece of their mum/mom with them.
Despite what many manufacturers claim, there are no magic toys or loveys. It is not the object itself that is important, but what you do with it. That said, my best tips for choosing a comfort object are to get something that is fairly flat (you’ll see why in a minute!) and made up of very soft fabric, preferably with a contrasting fabric from a sensory perspective. For older babies and toddlers I love a baby blanket made out of fur or ‘minky’ fabric and edged in thick satin ribbon (like THIS) and for younger babies something flattish in a very soft fabric with a few tags, or ears made from a different fabric (like THIS).
Condition the object as follows:
1. Every time you feed and cuddle the baby put the comfort object between you and them (now you’ll see why I recommend something fairly flat!).
2. Show the object lots of love yourself, comment on how soft it is, stroke it and say how calm it helps you to feel.
3. If your baby throws or pushes the object away simply calmly put it back (repeatedly).
4. At nap time and bedtime snuggle the comfort object next to the baby while they are going to sleep.
5. For older babies make sure that they have free access to the object all night, for younger babies just while you are present to supervise.
6. For babies in daycare, make sure the comfort object is always with them as needed during the day.
7. Consider buying two – it’s not fun if you lose it!
Expect a period of around 4 to 6 weeks of doing this daily before your baby forms a connection with their comfort object. Remember, they aren’t magic. It takes time for them to associate them with you. Around two thirds of babies will eventually form a good bond with a comfort object, often for many years to come.
For more gentle sleep tips, check out The Gentle Sleep Book and Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters (written specifically for breastfed babies under 12 months old). You can also follow me on Facebook for more sleep tips and advice.