When Can My Baby Have a Lovey? Here's What Experts Advise

Toddler hugging teddy bear and mother

Getty Images / Catherine Delahaye

As your infant grows into an independent, curious toddler, lots of changes are afoot. That might mean trying new foods or getting on a new nap schedule. It could also mean introducing new toys and experiences to your child. One toddler milestone that might bring you joy is introducing your baby to a comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or lovey. You might even want to give them one that was once your own.

Here’s everything you need to know about when to give a lovey to your child, if they are safe, how to clean them, and more. 

What Is a Comfort Item or Lovey?

They may go by several different names, such as loveys or stuffed animals, but essentially all beloved childhood security items serve the same purpose—to comfort your child. That can be at night, or specifically after an incident or tantrum. You can choose from stuffed animals, blankets, or even hybrid options that have small stuffed-animal-like heads attached to small pieces of fabric.

When Is it Safe For My Baby to Start Using a Lovey?

According to Clare Bush Addis, MD, of Columbia University's Department of Pediatrics in New York City, children under one year old should not sleep with anything in their cribs. That includes loveys, but also pillows, blankets, crib bumpers, and any other soft toys. 

You can introduce one to your child before age 1, says Jen Trachtenberg, MD, of Ask Dr. Jen. But babies shouldn’t be sleeping with one. “You can introduce it prior to age 1 when they are awake, so they can hold it and get used to it,” she says. The caveat, she adds, is that your child could get attached to the lovey, which might make sleeping without it difficult.

Benefits of Introducing a Lovey to Your Child

There are benefits of introducing a lovey to your child, such as the fact that it can teach your child to self-soothe. It can help with smoother transitions, especially at bedtime, and it can foster a sense of independence.

Learning to Self-Soothe

“Loveys are a great way to help [your child] learn to self-soothe and regulate their body and mind to feel calm and relaxed,” says Dr. Trachtenberg. Your baby might snuggle up with the lovey, or rub certain spots on it as they learn to calm themselves down.

Smoother Transitions at Bedtime

A lovey might also help make transitions to bedtime smoother for your toddler. “Sleeping with a stuffed animal or lovey can often help a child who may be afraid to go to sleep or a child who struggles with the transition to bedtime," says Dr. Addis. "Having a familiar stuffed animal or lovey can provide some reassurance and comfort if a child wakes up in the middle of the night."

Fostering Independence

Dr. Trachtenberg also points out that a lovey can help a child feel more empowered and more independent. “Loveys can help make the emotional transition from dependence to independence,” she says. “They can help calm and regulate because they are familiar items associated with relaxation and comfort." Basically, lovey has familiarity, such as its touch or scent, that can help remind your child that everything is OK, she explains.

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician or healthcare provider if you have any questions about security items or safe sleep.

Safety Precautions

Both pediatricians highlight the importance of always practicing safe sleep. That includes not having anything in the crib until your baby is at least 1 year old. Dr. Addis says that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) increases if there are loose articles in the crib, such as toys or stuffed animals. Babies can roll over and suffocate if they do not know how to properly right themselves. “In general, it’s best to keep a child’s crib as empty as possible for as long as possible,” she says.

Dr. Trachtenberg adds that when looking for a lovey or comfort item, make sure that there are no small parts, such as buttons or eyes, that could pop off and become a choking hazard.

Tips and Tricks for Loveys 

There are a few things you might want to keep in mind when introducing your child to a lovey. First, choose an item that can be easily taken on the go. Some stuffed animals won’t fit into diaper bags or backpacks, for example. Take into account your lifestyle before choosing one. 

Once you’ve decided on what kind of lovey you will give your child, consider purchasing more than one of the same item. “I recommend purchasing more than one and using them both so that the wear and tear is similar,” Dr. Trachtenberg says. “Often a child becomes quite attached, and does not want a new version of their object.” Plus, it’s good to have one on hand just in case it gets misplaced or lost—or the other one is in the wash! 

To that end, you’ll want to wash it frequently. As with any toy, it can build up dirt and bacteria, especially if your child puts it in his or her mouth or drags it around the house. Dr. Trachtenberg recommends looking for one that is machine washable, and that can be tossed in the dryer, too.

A Word from Verywell Family

Introducing a lovey or comfort item to your child is an important and sweet milestone. Loveys can teach a child to self-soothe, have a smooth transition at bedtime, and help a child gain independence. Take care to keep loveys out of your baby's sleeping space to reduce the risk of SIDS, and wash it regularly so it's clean and sanitary for your child to snuggle with.

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