What are transitional objects and when should I consider introducing one?
When your baby is beginning the bonding process with you and other significant family members, a familiar scent or touch can remind them of comfort and care. This object could come in the form of a lovie, a blankie, or as it is professionally known, a transitional object. It is not a large item but rather something small, 6 inches or 8 inches square. Some blankies have a small stuffed animal on the end. The transitional object can be the vehicle to transfer this familiar and comforting sensation from you to your baby when you’re not there. It can also be used to help teach your baby to learn self-comforting measures that they will use for many years to come. The blankie is not intended to completely replace feedings or holding the baby, just to help your baby ease into a more relaxed state that will allow them to fall asleep without feeling alone.
The transitional object will be used as a comfort and soothing tool for your baby until your baby can use other behaviors that create that feeling of safety and security on their own. Once your baby finds their own thumb for sucking, for example, the blanket may not be needed. Some infants like to rub their ear or nose to relax. Either way, each baby will develop the appropriate skills for self-soothing. In the meantime, using a transitional object can help them along the way.
Transitional Object Care Plan
- Start as soon as you can when you get home from the hospital.
- Find a blanket or soft object that you like looking at because you’ll be seeing a lot of it.
- Don’t use anything with rattles or other sounds inside.
- You do not want to encourage any sounds at nap or bedtime to distract the baby, or wake them up accidentally
- You should consider having more than one of the same item if possible, so that when it is time to put it in the washing machine you can replace it with a lookalike.
- Place this item next to your skin and have part of it touching the baby’s face or hands while nursing or taking a bottle
- This should be done at every feeding for at least one week.
- No matter who is feeding your baby, the blanket or item should be skin-to-skin with both adult and infant.
- The idea is to have the blanket near your baby during feedings, then transfer it to the crib with your baby after feedings so the same scent is still near them.
- Don’t wash the blanket for at least the first week so the scent remains on the blanket and your baby becomes more familiar with you being “inside” the blanket.
- Most infants can make the transition to the blanket within a few days.
Other infants need a week or two to become comfortable and relaxed with the blanket in place of their parents. Some infants will never need one, others need one for a long time. Once your baby chooses to give up the object, put it away in a closet for safe keeping, just in case they need it again at a later time like the first day of nursery school.
Be patient with your baby. Remember you have trained your baby to go to sleep one way up until now. Let them have the transitional object every nap and sleep-time for at least one week while you are training them to be put down in their crib without holding, shushing, or patting.
Are you being challenged by your infant’s sleep issues? Talk to us about your concerns and one of the healthcare professionals on our team can offer personalized sleep strategies for you and your baby.