What About the Lovey?

Hi Mamas,

My almost-4-year-old has had a special blanket (we call it her lovey) since birth. No matter how dirty or worn it gets, she asks for it whenever she’s tired or in need of comfort. My question is, how long is it OK for us to let her keep it? It seems like most children would have given it up by now, but whenever we try to “disappear it” she gets crazy upset so we need to go find it again.

When do we take it away once and for all? Thanks for all the help —


Dear Pattie,

Your little chica is one lucky girl! Kiddos who have loveys (known in the biz as transitional objects) get that extra boost of comfort and security, especially when you’re out of sight. Sometimes parents worry that it means their child is needy or insecure — not so! Whether it’s a special stuffed animal that only gets more loved with age, or a cozy blanket that goes with them everywhere, these beloved friends offer soothing like nothing else but the real thing … YOU!

We advise parents to treat loveys (a couple of the cherished ones in our house were Bankie and Teddie) the same way they treat pacifiers: At “that certain age” that’s totally up to what feels right for your family, start limiting lovey’s range. At first, start keeping lovey in the house and the car only (the exception is trips and vacations — often unfamiliar environments where lovey is needed most), then only car and bed, then only bed.

Frame it in terms something like “You are SO grown-up now that you’re going more and more places. Lovey needs to stay here and keep an eye on Baby (a special doll or toy).” Make it a mark of getting bigger and having more privileges, but let her know that lovey will always be waiting for her when she gets back.

When it comes to pacifiers, we generally recommend a final ceremony where the last ones are wrapped beautifully and “sent” to a baby who needs them. A lovey is a bit different, as it can live forever on your little girl’s bed or a nearby special spot. As she gets older it may lose some of that magical soothing power, but will always remind her of a feeling of comfort and safety.

Younger Son kept Bankie (well, actually Bankie’s meager remains that have been re-sewn time and time again) folded at the end of his bed well into high school. Even now it’s in a box of keepsakes with other cherished items. Daughter’s Teddie was a newborn gift from an old family friend and he’s been to super-exotic destinations all over the world. She still slips him into a pocket whenever she packs a suitcase.

Our wish for your little one is that she continues to adore her lovey for many years to come. A little word of warning: Never leave a hotel or far-away location without confirming that lovey is on board. Now that can be a parenting disaster.

~ The Mamas



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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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