When my first child was born, he was showered with cute cuddly toys, muslins and other comforters. But he was never very interested in them and they got put away at the back of a cupboard until my second child was born. I never really understood the importance of a comforter or how it could help my baby sleep better. When my first child didn’t appear to be interested, I simply didn’t see the point of pushing it.
What’s the point of a comforter?
So, why bother with them? Well, it’s simple really. It’s all about sleep associations. You want to teach your child to find a way to settle themselves without needing you near them. So, what can take your place? Well, something soft and cuddly! Your aim is to give your child a cuddly toy, muslin or other soft thing to comfort them when they need it. Something to snuggle with at bedtime or naptime. That way, if your child wakes up at night, they’ll want to reach out for their teddy or comforter, rather than call for you. Success!
What is a comforter?
I’m not just talking about teddies and cuddly toys. A comforter can be literally anything that gives your child some comfort. I’ve known children who’ve opted for muslins, pieces of cloth of even a sock! Whatever it is that your baby is drawn to, encourage them to form an attachment with their comforter so that they can use it to help them settle to sleep – anytime, anywhere. If possible, try to encourage a small comforter as a large teddy bear or blanket is harder to transport!
For some children, it takes time
We can’t expect all children to respond in the same way. Adults and children alike have different likes and dislikes. Some children are instantly drawn to soft cuddly things. Others aren’t. And sometimes, it just takes a little time. So encourage your child slowly and gently, to increase the likelihood of them adopting a comforter.
How do I encourage it?
There are a few ways to encourage your child to adopt a comforter. Medical guidelines recommend offering a comforter to your baby from 6 months. However, you should never let your baby sleep with anything in their cot including a teddy or comforter, before they are 1 year old. Once they are over a year old, you can safely offer your child a comforter at different times during the day and night. Offer it in their cot at bedtime, in their buggy whenever they go out, in the car with them when they go on a drive, next to them whilst you feed them, or sitting at the table during meal times. The comforter will become your baby’s best friend – their security blanket and something that will calm them whenever they are upset. Of course, it will also help them to fall asleep at night too.
I would recommend that you sleep with the comforter yourself a few times so that it picks up your comforting mummy or daddy ‘scent’. You can then introduce it to your child so that they are naturally drawn to it. This is because smells are so important in helping a baby or young child feel comforted. For more on why smells are so significant, read my blog article here.
Always have a spare
Don’t make the rookie error of only having one of your child’s favourite comforter. You’ll be setting yourself up for a disaster when they drop it in a muddy puddle, leave it at nursery or heaven forbid they actually lose it! Keep at least two or possibly three if your child takes it everywhere with them, just to be on the safe side. My second child absolutely loved his cuddly toys. His favourite became an expensive teddy from Harrods which had been given as a gift – just my luck! I ended up having to fork out for two spares but I knew it would be worth it and it was. One teddy would always stay in his cot, whilst the others were out and about in frequent need of a wash!
Still not interested?
There will always be some children who don’t develop a bond with a teddy or comforter or it might take them longer to do so. Some children won’t develop that sense of attachment to a toy until their toddler years. So, if your child shows no interest despite your gentle encouragement, then you might have to accept that a comforter just isn’t for them. Remember, it isn’t the only way to get a child to sleep without your presence. It just gives you a helping hand.
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