WHAT IS A TRANSITIONAL OBJECT AND WHY DOES IT HELP?
A transitional object, otherwise known as a comforter or lovey, is an item used to provide psychological comfort for babies and toddlers especially in unusual or unique situations, or at bedtime for small children.
Babies from six months onwards experience some degree of separation anxiety as part of their normal development. It is thought that it is a result of increased mobility and independence and a developing realisation that they are physically separate from their primary carer. In some children this can be quick phase, while in others (like mine) it can continue well through-out their toddlerhood. Any mum who has experienced their little one's anguish at being left with someone while you attend a doctors appointment know how intense these periods of separation anxiety can be. Introducing a transitional object is one way parents can help their little one feel safe and secure during these moments.
Transitional objects or comforters , similar to lullabies, can quickly help build positive bed and sleep associations which can make going to to bed and resettling during the night easier for your little one. Outside the house they can really help too - providing a sense of security and comfort during situations where they may experience a higher level of anxiety such as unfamiliar environments, child care or going to the doctors. Transitional objects can be introduced at any stage, even from very young but it is important to always consider SID and safe sleeping guidelines. They can be almost anything but most often take the form of soft toys or blankies.
As for my personal experience with comforters - my daughter's first love is her dummy. She has had it from the very start and loved it with an insane intensity from day 1. Her second love was her sheepy, now replaced by 'Fawny' and third love is her teddy. These tools have all had different moments in the spotlight for her but there is no doubt that they were incredibly comforting for her during her recent transition to 2 days a week childcare at three years old after being with me every day prior to that. My son, on the other hand, has never really 'loved' anything (except for his mummy) or made a close bond with and inanimate object. But with his pending transition to childcare starting in just a few weeks, I have made an effort over the last few weeks to introduce something that I hope will help him during this period. His comforter is now 'Foxey' (of course) and with his dummy securely attached to it he has taken to using it for comfort around the house in just a few days.
TIPS FOR INTRODUCING A COMFORTER / TRANSITIONAL OBJECT
My daughter had many objects of desire so her choices for a transitional object came naturally and easily for her. For my son however it has been a deliberate decision to encourage him to bond and therefore needed some tips up our sleeve to make it stick.
1. Wear the comforter down your top for as long as you can stand. Not 30 minutes, hours... Take it to gym, walk the dog, really get your smell all over it.
2. Attach a dummy to it. If your baby likes their dummy then attach one to the comforter. Riff & Raff have a special tag for this purpose but if using something else you can just use a regular dummy clip. This will immediately increase the amount of contact your little one is having with the comforter and also reduce the number of lost dummies - win / win!
3. Give it personality and use it regular nap and bedtime routines. Play peek a boo with it, sing songs to it and make it fun. But also incorporate it into nap and bed time routines by wishing it goodnight, snuggles and if a Riff Raff & Co toy turning on the lullaby. Persistence is the key
4. Once a comforter sticks - buy more than one or make sure it is easily available. It will get lost and it will get dirty. A unique find at Savers might look great but it could prove quite fear inducing if it goes missing at the Zoo. Having two of them can reduce stress and negotiations when it comes to washing and drying of the toy.