A comforter is a soft toy or small blanket that is also sometimes referred to as a ‘transitional object.’ A baby comforter is a small soft object that provides a baby with a sense of safety and security. They are a portable best friend who signals to your little one that it is time to relax and unwind for bedtime. Another advantage of introducing a comforter is that they can support a baby who is stressed or faced with a change in their normal routine (immunizations, traveling away from home, long car journeys, settling at nursery or childminder, hospital stays).
When is the right time to introduce a comforter to your baby?
The right time to introduce a comforter to your baby is typically around three to six months of age. At this stage, babies develop their senses and become more aware of their surroundings. Introducing the comforter during this time allows them to form a positive association and familiarity with it as a source of comfort and security. Around the age of six months, your baby will go through an important cognitive developmental milestone – they will realize that they are no longer attached to you. This really is the beginning of your child’s growing independence, confidence, and sense of identity. However, with this milestone also comes potential separation anxiety and even upsetting at times. This is a great time to introduce a comforter – it can make babies feel safe and remind them of you. However, every baby is unique, so it’s essential to observe your baby’s readiness and responsiveness to determine the optimal time for introduction.
What should you consider when selecting a comforter for your baby?
By considering the following factors, you can choose a comforter that is safe, comfortable, and appealing to your baby, providing them with a soothing and comforting sleep companion. When selecting a comforter for your baby, there are several factors to consider:
- Safety: Choose a comforter that meets safety standards and is free from small parts or loose threads that could pose a choking hazard. Ensure it is made from non-toxic materials and is easily washable.
- Material: Opt for soft, hypoallergenic, and breathable materials such as cotton or bamboo. These fabrics are gentle on your baby’s delicate skin and allow for adequate airflow, reducing the risk of overheating.
- Size and Weight: Consider the size and weight of the comforter. It should be proportionate to your baby’s size and easy for them to hold, without being too heavy or cumbersome.
- Texture: Babies often enjoy different textures, so choose a comforter with a texture that your baby finds comforting. Some may prefer a silky texture, while others may prefer a plush or knitted texture.
- Washability: Babies can be messy, so it’s important to choose a comforter that is machine-washable and easy to clean. Look for comforters that can withstand frequent washing without losing their softness or shape.
- Visual Appeal: Select a baby comforter with colors, patterns, or designs that are visually appealing to your baby. Bright and contrasting colors or simple, soothing patterns can capture their attention and engage their senses.
- Personal Preference: Ultimately, every baby has their own preferences, so consider what appeals to your little one. Watch for their reactions to different materials or textures to gauge what they respond well to.
How can you make the introduction of the comforter a positive experience for your baby?
To make the introduction of the comforter a positive experience for your baby, you can follow these tips:
- Gentle Introduction: Introduce the comforter gradually and gently. Allow your baby to explore and interact with it at their own pace. Avoid overwhelming or forcing the comforter on your baby if they show resistance or disinterest.
- Positive Association: Associate the comforter with positive experiences. Use it during calm and soothing activities like cuddling, feeding, or storytime. This helps your baby form a positive association between the comforter and feelings of comfort and security.
- Familiar Scents: Infuse the comforter with familiar scents to provide a sense of comfort and reassurance. You can sleep with the comforter or keep it close to you for a night to transfer your scent onto it. The familiar scent can make the comforter more appealing and comforting to your baby.
- Playful Interaction: Incorporate the comforter into playtime. Use it for gentle peek-a-boo games or incorporate it into puppet play. These playful interactions create positive associations and help your baby develop a sense of connection and joy with the comforter.
- Verbal and Non-Verbal Encouragement: Use positive reinforcement through verbal praise, smiles, and gentle encouragement when your baby shows interest in or interacts with the comforter. Your positive response reinforces their connection with the comforter and encourages further exploration.
- Consistency: Introduce the comforter consistently during appropriate times, such as before sleep or during calming activities. Consistency helps your baby recognize the comforter as a familiar and comforting object, promoting a positive experience and a sense of security.
Remember, each baby is unique, and it may take time for them to develop a strong attachment to the comforter. Be patient, follow your baby’s cues, and create an environment of love, comfort, and gentle encouragement. With time, the comforter can become a cherished and comforting item for your little one.
Attachment is a psychological phenomenon – with time, the baby is able to transfer some of their feelings of attachment to their parents to an inanimate object. The key to this is, as always, consistency. Repeatedly introducing the object at sleep times helps form a pattern of behavior and a new ‘sleep association.’ In theory, if your little one is attached to a baby comforter, they are more likely to be able to soothe themselves back to sleep independently, using their comforter when they stir between sleep cycles during the night.
A ‘sleep association’ is basically anything that helps your baby fall asleep. There are all sorts of sleep associations including rocking, patting, feeding, and dummies. However, if you are struggling to get a settled night’s sleep it could be possible that moving away from parental controlled sleep associations could help your baby learn to settle themselves back off to sleep.
If everything is working well, then there is no need to fix it. However, it is always worth trying to introduce a comforter alongside the rest of your bedtime rituals. Here are some top tips:
- You can introduce a comforter from the age of six months
- Stick to one comforter, ideally one that is washable (and get a spare!)
- Sleep with it overnight before so that it smells of you (or hold it between you during feeds). If you are breastfeeding could even put a little bit of your milk on it.
- Give the comforter to your baby at each nap and at bedtime.
- Avoid bean fillings or long fur that your baby might pull out of accidentally inhale. You can try pulling at the fur to test it!
- A comforter can be a great support when trying to ditch the dummy
As children get older some parents worry about their child’s dependence on their comforter. There is nothing to worry about. Children tend to naturally reduce their dependence on their comforter as they get older. As long as their teddy or blanket isn’t stopping them from leading a happy and healthy life then please don’t worry.
Most nurseries and schools are very sensitive to the potential need to bring in a comforter during settling-in periods. Using their comforter when you are not there is a good way to practice self-regulation and to cope with any fears or anxieties about you not being with them. In time, their comforter can be left on their peg, or even at home, ready and waiting for them on their return.
What techniques can help your baby bond with the comforter?
Building a bond between your baby and the comforter is a gradual process. Be patient and provide ample opportunities for interaction and connection. Each baby is unique, so observe and respond to your baby’s cues and preferences to help facilitate a strong and comforting bond with their comforter. There are several techniques you can employ to help your baby bond with their comforter:
- Skin-to-Skin Contact: Encourage bonding by having skin-to-skin contact with your baby while they interact with the comforter. Hold them close, allowing the comforter to touch their skin, as this promotes a sense of security and connection.
- Scent Transfer: Transfer your scent onto the comforter by sleeping with it or keeping it close to you for a while. Your baby will associate your comforting scent with the comforter, strengthening their bond and providing a source of familiarity and reassurance.
- Mutual Exploration: Engage in mutual exploration with the comforter. Show interest and curiosity in the comforter yourself, demonstrating how to touch, stroke, or cuddle with it. Your baby is more likely to bond with the comforter when they see you interacting positively with it.
- Comforting Association: Use the comforter as a tool for comfort and soothing during times of distress or when your baby needs reassurance. Offer the comforter while providing gentle verbal reassurance and physical touch. This helps your baby form a connection between the comforter and feelings of security and comfort.
- Bedtime Ritual: Make the comforter a part of your baby’s bedtime routine. Incorporate it into activities like cuddling, reading a bedtime story, or gentle rocking. This consistent association with sleep and relaxation helps your baby bond with the comforter as a sleep-time companion.
- Allow Self-Exploration: Give your baby the opportunity to explore the comforter independently. Let them hold, touch, or manipulate it in their own way. This sense of autonomy and discovery fosters a personal bond between your baby and the comforter.
In conclusion, introducing a comforter to your baby is a beautiful journey of creating a sense of comfort, security, and bonding. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can make the introduction of the comforter a positive and gradual experience. From gentle introduction to incorporating it into sleep and daily routines, you can foster a strong attachment between your baby and their comforter.
As your baby grows, the comforter becomes a cherished companion, offering solace during sleep, moments of distress, and exploration. Remember to be patient, observe your baby’s cues, and create a loving and nurturing environment. With time, the comforter will become a source of comfort and reassurance, nurturing your baby’s well-being and promoting peaceful moments of rest and play.
Our suggestions of Baby Comforters at A Matter Of Style
- Beige Linen Baby Cuddly Toy23,50 € – 27,90 € Inc. VAT
- Sage Baby Cuddly Toy23,50 € Inc. VAT
- Peanut Baby Cuddly Toy23,50 € Inc. VAT
Sources and References
- Barry, Jane . “Using Comforters for Settling Your Baby.” Safe Sleep Space, 12 Dec. 2022, www.safesleepspace.com.au/blogs/news/using-comforters-for-settling-your-baby. Accessed 24 May 2023
- The Sleep Teacher. “Introducing and Using a Comforter | Blogs & Advice.” The Sleep Teacher, 18 July 2021, thesleepteacher.com.au/blogs/blogs-advice/introducing-and-using-a-comforter. Accessed 24 May 2023