Babies and toddlers often find comfort in sucking or in stroking a soft, familiar object like a blanket or stuffed toy. But as your child gets older, you may wonder when it's time to toss the “lovey” or the binky.
The two items are very different, says WebMD guest parenting expert Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP. A blanket, stuffed animal, or other soft, cuddly item that a child can hold and stroke helps him learn to self-soothe, and not need to cling to Mommy or Daddy all the time. It’s called a “transitional object.” There’s no need to “wean” a child off a lovey, although they’ll probably start leaving it at home once they’re 2 or 3 years old.
Pacifiers, while excellent sources of comfort for babies that also decrease the risk of SIDS during the infant months, shouldn’t be used as transitional objects. Extensive use into the toddler years can lead to ear infections and dental problems. Ideally, Altmann says, start weaning a child from the pacifier when they turn 1 year old, and replace it with a blanket or other lovey.
One mom reports that her son was easily weaned from his pacifier, as he wasn’t that attached to it, before he was a year old. But he can’t sleep without his blanket. He even insisted on a new one that was the right color after it turned pink in the wash.
Another mom, like many, is seeking help weaning her 2-year-old from the pacifier. With a 5-month-old baby in the house, big sister is jealous every time she sees the baby sucking away, and demands her own pacifier, too.
What challenges have you faced when weaning a child from a pacifier or a "lovey" item like a blanket? Share your thoughts with others in the WebMD Parenting Community.