Have you ever felt that carrying a stuffed bear was more important than remembering your mobile phone or house keys? Have you ever spent hours looking for a Mickey Mouse?
My worst nightmare is a lost blankie!! (Also known a blanket or comforting soft toy or stuffed animal that the children might choose and get attached to).
A blankie is “a bridge between the mother and the external world”, says Alicia Lieberman, an expert in infant mental health and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls the comforting blanket or toy “transitional objects, because they help children make the emotional transition from dependence to independence”. A baby becomes attached to the blankie starting around the age of 5-6 months, and this sometimes continues till the age of around 6 years. A blankie is very soft and it holds the smell of everything intimate related to the baby: his bed, his home or his mommy’s smell.
It’s common and perfectly healthy for children to develop an attachment to blankies, but on the other side it’s just as normal if a baby doesn’t want to have one, so don’t overthink it. Children who choose to have a blankie might want to have it with them all the time, and this is where we can start limiting his need for his blankie and asking him to put it away during a meal time or a trip, and so on, to gradually cut down his dependence on the blankie.
The main reason why a baby loves his blankie is because of its texture and smell. So a blankie should not be washed frequently I would say. Moreover, a blankie reassures your child when he’s separated from you, and it helps him feel at home when he is in a strange place. The big problem is when blankie is lost. Even if it’s replaced by the same stuffed animal, the child will realize it’s not the same one. Children don’t accept substitutes. However, if one day the blankie was forgotten, mommy’s smell and hugs can surely help the baby overcome forgetting it at home.
What I did with my son is that I bought an exact copy of his blankie and I used to alternate between the two copies so that both get old and both get mommy’s smell on them and they both got old. This allowed me to wash one while the other was being used or simply if we forgot one somewhere, we would have the emergency replacing blankie. It saved us from potential meltdowns on many occasions.
It is very important to let a child give up a blankie when he’s ready. We shouldn’t state when we think it is the right time; and most importantly, we shouldn’t force him to leave it when he is not ready. If the child is not decreasing his attachment to his blankie while growing up, we can talk to him and work together on limiting the blankie time.