So many of us have that one precious toy or blanket that we slept with and dragged everywhere until it was ragged, fraying, dirty, and just a bit disgusting. I don’t think I had a lovey, but both my sons have their favourite cuddly toy.
Their auntie and uncle gave each of them a soft toy when they were born, and those toys have become their favourite. Archer has a dog called Spot, and Lennox has a rabbit called Bunny. Very original, I know. But being a tired new parent, there was not much originality springing forth from my baby-addled mind.
When the boys were old enough, we introduced these toys to their cot as a comfort item for naptime and when they went to bed at night. Now at nearly three years old, they still love to sleep with these toys, and take them out and about with us, too.
What Is a Lovey?
A lovey is generally a soft toy or blanket that you introduce to your child—or your child naturally becomes attached to—and is a source of comfort to them. It provides comfort during the night when they are sleeping and often becomes their little buddy that they like to take everywhere.
A lovey might also be their pacifier, or any object your child decides is special to them. It can also be a sleep-approved toy you introduce to your child with the intention of it becoming a comfort item your child will form a healthy attachment to.
Why Use a Lovey?
A lovey is wonderful for your child for so many reasons. It provides comfort to them during the night and at nap times. It becomes a sleep cue; when they lay down with their lovey, they know it’s time for sleep. It can help when your child is feeling ill—they can have mommy cuddles and snuggle with their lovey too. It also helps when a parent is away or absent for any reason. They will always have their lovey there with them.
It’s great to have during times of change or transition—maybe you’re moving house, or your child is starting daycare. The lovey can be their constant, especially when you can’t be. It’s a wonderful sleep association that will provide many years of comfort to your child.
Loveys and Safety
There is some debate about the best and safest age to introduce a lovey. Some recommend as early as 4 months, while the AAP recommends keeping your child’s sleeping surface free and clear of any items. Many parents introduce a lovey between 6 and 12 months of age when they feel confident that their child can roll, move around the cot, and has the coordination to prevent any item from suffocation them.
We always want to promote safe sleep at both The Parenting Co and Luna and Lullaby. It’s really great if you can introduce a lovey to your child; this way you can make sure the item is approved for safe sleep and doesn’t have any choking hazards.
There are many different types of loveys on the market. You should look for one that is smaller than your baby’s head to avoid any potential suffocation issues. We got our favourites listed below.
6 Loveys We Love
This is an excellent lovey for a few reasons. The Sleepytot is super soft, cuddly, and can also hold multiple dummies. This lovey is great to give your child extra comfort and also help them find and replace their dummy.
2. Lulla Doll
This beautiful vintage-looking doll was developed by doctors, nurses, parents, and psychologists. An Icelandic mum designed the doll, and it is meant to give your baby the security of closeness and play real-life sounds for 12 hours. For added safety, the doll has velcro straps. You can attach it to the side of the crib or pram until you feel it is safe to introduce it to your child for cuddles.
These gorgeous blankies/loveys come in a range of different animals and colours. What I really love about these is they come in a set of three—a pair and a spare. This way, you can easily keep them clean, and you have some backups if one gets lost or damaged.
Over 7 years, an amazing mum with six babies developed this product to help our babies sleep better and more soundly. Ewan the Dream Sheep is soft, cuddly, has a glowing red heart, and produces womb sounds to help your baby feel comforted and sleep easy.
5. The WhisBear Humming Bear
Also designed and developed by two mums, this product has been made by mums for mums to help your child get the best possible sleep. The WhisBear plays pink noise which is like white noise, but a softer, more soothing variant. The WhisBear also has a crying detector. After 40 minutes, the pink noise automatically decreases. Then if the baby stirs and begins crying, the pink noise starts up again to help automatically soothe your baby back to sleep.
How to Introduce a Lovey to Your Child
Have the lovey with you during feeding times, and cuddle and snuggle the toy together. This way, the lovey gets mommy’s scent and will be even more comforting to your child. Place the comfort item into bed with your baby at an appropriate age and let them naturally form an attachment.
Make sure the lovey is present for all naps and bedtime to help encourage the natural bond with your child. It won’t happen straight away, but with consistent use, the lovey will begin to be an important part of your child’s daily life.
Can My Child Be Too Attached to Their Lovey?
Not really. Your child may become very attached to their lovey between the ages of 18 to 24 months. However, my boys still love to cart their around everywhere at nearly three years old. But to be honest, leaving their lovey behind doesn’t cause any drama anymore. They will also happily put it in their bag to keep it safe now. That was a huge step in the right direction.
Your child will naturally grow out of their need and bond with their lovey. It might always have a special place in their heart and cuddle them at night time for year and years to come, but eventually, the need to have their toy with them every second of the day will fade. I doubt very much they will be heading off to university with their lovey in tow.
Let them have it for as long as they need to. It provides extra safety and security for your child when they are dealing with the big, wide world.
When Will They Not Want or Need It Anymore?
Again, let them have their lovey for as long as they need. Most children will begin to separate themselves naturally from their lovey during the day. They may keep it at night until they are 12 years old. They will then begin to forget to take their lovey out with them during the day or leave it on their bed during playtime. They will also start to socialise and play more other children as younger children do. The need for their lovey grows smaller as their world becomes more and more comfortable and consistent.
Always Buy at Least Two Loveys
Children get really attached to their loveys—so attached that it can be challenging to sneak it away and wash it. Buy two or more so you can rotate them for washing. Also, you are bound to lose one somewhere along the way, so having a backup is a great idea. We lost Archer’s on a trip to Singapore. Luckily, it didn’t turn into such a huge disaster. Then last week, one arm fell off, and it needed a wash so badly. Having at least two stops any potential dramas from starting.
Lovey Has Gone Missing?
If you don’t have a second one in rotation or, heaven forbid, both have gone missing, you just need to be upfront and honest. Talk about it with your child. It might not be easy for them; they might be cranky and upset. But this is a good learning experience for them as well. Sometimes, things happen that upset us, and we have to deal with it in the best way possible. They might have some extra mum and dad cuddles until you get can a substitute. You might let them pick out a new toy, or buy a replacement and let them know. It’s best not to try and switch one in; kids are pretty quick to realise it’s not their beloved lovey and get cranky.
Lovey Has Become Super Stinky?
Again, having that second lovey in rotation is an excellent help during this time. If the loveys are both super stinky and covered with germs, then you should choose your time wisely. The best time is before breakfast. Before they realise, whip their lovey away, and wash and dry it while they have breakfast. If you’re quick, they can have it ready for their morning nap.
Alternatively, if your child, under any circumstances, refuses to part from their lovey, put in the bath with them. This way, you can wash them and their toy. Then put the lovey in the dryer to be dried off before bedtime.
Sharing the Lovey
The lovey is one thing that my boys don’t have to share. Their respective loveys are their special toys, and they don’t have to share it with anyone. If their brother has their toy, they have to give it back. I think it’s really important that this toy doesn’t have to be shared. It is theirs and theirs only.
Limits for the Lovey
The lovey helps your child feel safe and secure, especially in new surroundings. However, as attached as your child might be—and there is nothing wrong with this—sometimes, it just isn’t practical, or it will be too easy to lose the lovey.
Set some limits with your child about where and when they can have their lovey. They might be able to have it anywhere at home and in the car, but not in the park or shops because it will be too easy to lose it there. Set your own limits that work for your family.
Don’t ‘Lose’ the Lovey
As frustrating as the lovey might seem to you, it does provide your child with a secure attachment. They will go through phases when their lovey is vitally important to them, and they will go through phases when it is not as relevant to them. Eventually, they will outgrow the need for the lovey. Let them outgrow their lovey when they are ready. Losing it on purpose to get rid of it might cause more problems than you previously had. Children are all about patience—so much patience.
A lovey is a great parenting tool for sleep. It is a source of great comfort to your child, a confidence builder, and a great help during times of transition and change. Find a lovey that your child will love for years to come.