Comforters and pacifiers, are they okay?

Young children and babies often form attachments with objects that serve to relax and comfort them when they are feeling tired or anxious. Sucking is naturally calming for babies so attachments are often formed with a dummy, teether or thumb. But soft toys, blankets and other safe and familiar objects are often popular too.

Babies and toddlers usually find they crave their comforters most at bedtime and when they are away from their main caregiver for any lengthy period. This is quite natural behaviour and allowing your young child access to that safety net (as trivial as it may seem to us) can give them that extra little bit of support when they need it, until they are confident enough to go it alone.

Not all babies will need or identify with a specific comforter, particularly those who do not sleep alone, or those that rarely leave the side of a familiar carer. But those who do form a strong attachment with a comforter will tend to rely on it heavily at times.

Why do they choose what they do?

Babies and young children usually choose a comforter because of its positive association with their parents or loved ones. The action of sucking a thumb or dummy may trigger memories of the closeness of those early feeding routines. Or the smell and feel of a certain toy or blanky might remind them of cuddles with you. They will be able to hold this close the next time they need to fall asleep on their own.

A favourite teddy or comforter can also assist young children with expressing early emotions. They can cuddle, push away, or vent their frustrations on a blanket or a soft toy.

Is it a phase?

A firm attachment to a comforter can start at around 6 months and this usually gets stronger around 8-10 months, especially as the child gradually becomes more independent. (If baby is under 12 months, just remember that blankets and soft toy comforters should be removed from the cot once they are asleep)

Between 1-3 years children tend to rely on their comforters most. This is a big period of adjustment and young children are learning to feel safe without a parent always beside them. (Bear in mind it is advised that toddlers stop using dummies by the age of 2 or 3 if possible, for the healthy development of the teeth and jaw bones.) By 4 years many children have started to leave their comforters behind as exciting and new discoveries beckon them.

If your child is getting school-ready, and the thought of leaving their comforter behind is a worry, it is best to let them take it with them at first if possible. It is then important to find out why your child feels stressed or still needs the support of a comforter. Anxiety in childhood is common, seek advice from your GP if you think this may be an issue.

Enrolment into an early learning centre, in preparation for Kindergarten, is always a good transitional idea. Here they can take their comforter with them until they are confident enough to be distracted from it naturally, with play-based activities designed to build their confidence and self-esteem.

Try the Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning and Childcare centres in NSW, where the fun and creative curriculum includes everything from singing and painting, to sand and water play. Your little learner will build confidence and social skills in no time.