Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let your child keep their lovey!

Most parents, especially if they have more than one child, has been faced with a little one who attaches themselves to an object: a blanket, a pacifier, a special bottle, a stuffed animal or any number of things. The parent usually enjoys the benefits of this attachment, it makes for a calmer, happier child, unless of course the object gets left behind at the grocery store or church and you find yourself with a wailing child until you make a mad dash to pick it up again.
But along with the child’s attachment, comes much advice from well meaning friends, neighbors, relatives and even strangers on the street, asking you when you are going to stop this behavior and take the lovey away from the child. Before long, an inexperienced parent might begin to wonder if they are harming their child by allowing them to keep their lovey, especially as the child gets older.

As a mother of ten, I’ve had children who have attached to many objects, among them were two pacifier babies, two bottle babies, a thumb baby, and two blanket babies. I had one older son who carried around a small stuffed ninja turtle for quite a while. I also had children who didn’t attach to anything. I’d like to offer my opinion on the subject, which might be a bit different from the opinions you will get from someone else.

I decided early on not to take my children’s lovey’s away from them. I felt like it was a mean thing to do, and what was the point, anyway? As adults, don’t many of us have an item or two we really like, and would miss when it was gone? I never believed that if I didn’t take these things away, my children would grow up and become addicted to cigarettes or some other bad for you thing, and my experience, now that five of my ten children are adults, have proved me right about this.

My first baby, a beautiful little dark headed girl, had a pacifier. She was very tiny with large dark eyes, and the pacifier seemed to take up most of her face. I thought it was very cute. I had so many older moms get after me, thinking I was too inexperienced to know better, wanting me to make her stop sucking on a pacifier. And I will admit in the early months, as I had to crawl out of bed over and over to stick it back in her mouth, I wondered why in the world someone didn’t invent a pacifier that would maybe hook behind a babies ears, like eyeglasses, so it wouldn’t keep falling out. Duct tape crossed my mind many times in the very early morning hours, but of course I never really resorted to that.
As she got older, she could find the pacifier in her bed if she lost it, and sometimes I would lay two or three of them beside her just to make sure she didn’t have trouble and wake me up.
In the end, the dire predictions of crooked teeth didn’t come true for her, as her teeth always stayed perfectly straight. She was around two when she decided she didn’t need the pacifier anymore. There were no tears or tantrums, pacifier time was just over.

My second baby, a pretty blond haired girl had trouble gaining weight, and as a very young mother, I let the doctors convince me to quit nursing her and put her on formula at six months of age, something I would not do if I had it to do over. As she grew, she had a favorite Fred Flintstone bottle. I knew it could harm her teeth, so I never put anything in it but water. She carried this bottle in clenched teeth so her hands would be free. At one doctor visit, however, I had a doctor actually yelled at me because she was eighteen months and still on a bottle. Horrified at what a bad mother I was (once again, totally believing everything doctors said), I began to give her a small crocheted square I made for her along with the bottle. She soon attached to this, and let the bottle go. I have pictures of her on up to around five years old with this ‘blanky’. I easily remember checking on her at night up to about eight years old and seeing her cuddling it. She is now 30 years old, and tells me she still has it, though I don’t think she sleeps with it anymore. She was my only child who ended up with braces, but her tooth problems were not caused by her bottle, her teeth just grew in sideways.

My next son had the ninja turtle. That didn’t seem to bother people so much. He carried it in the early elementary school years. We homeschooled, so it wasn’t a problem.
My next two sons didn’t have a lovey.

My fourth son was also a pacifier baby. I used colorful Discovery Toys links to fasten it to his shirt. I have pictures of him with this pacifier, which for some reason he called a “way-way” up to about three years old. He was a big boy, and I made sure he had cute pacifiers to try and appease the people who were put off by his habit. His teeth did have a rounded look by the time he finally gave up the pacifier, again, totally on his own, but within months of giving it up, they had fallen back into the right shape. He is sixteen years old now, and has nice straight teeth.

My last biological child was another beautiful dark haired daughter I had when I was 42 years old. She was my only thumb sucker. She sucked her thumb until she was seven. I still remember the sweet feel of her little face against my neck, feeling the soft moisture and sucking motion of her little mouth and thumb. I loved it. Other people were very concerned, and always asking me what I was going to do about her thumb sucking? Nothing, I would reply. It’s not bothering me! It finally took comments from her peers at church, who told her only babies sucked their thumbs, that made her give it up. She will be a teenager this year, and also has nice straight teeth.

When my husband and I were in our 50’s, we adopted three children from the foster care system. I was a seasoned mother by now for sure, having care for more than 50 foster children as well as raising my biological ones. When the first one, a preemie boy with asthma, came along, I made him a blanket right away out of a small piece of flannel with an airplane pattern on it. In fact, I made three identical ones. I used these anytime I rocked him to sleep, putting them in his arms or against my chest. He attached quickly. He will be five years old in a month, and still has two of these, and sleeps with them occasionally.
My next adopted child was a little girl who came to live with us when she was two and a half, and already had a small blanket scrap as a lovey and sucked her first finger, rubbing this lovey against her nose. Her biological grandmother sent a larger identical flannel baby blanket that matched the scrap she carried. I cut that up to make her more loveys, and she let me know the corner had to have a few threads loose, because that’s what she rubbed against her nose. She will be six in a week, and still sucks her finger and rubs the lovey on her nose. Her teeth are also taking on the rounded shape my son’s had, but I’m not really worried about it, as it doesn’t spoil her looks, or make any trouble with her eating. I suspect they will fall back into shape, too, when she quits sucking her finger. Who knows how long that will be, as she shows no sign of slowing down.
Two weeks after her adoption was final, we were asked to take her full sibling baby brother, who was five months old. Baby brother was still trying to recover from a drug addiction he got in the womb. Before he was ever transferred from his relative placement to our home, I had gone on ebay and bought him blankets. This time, I discovered blankies with a sensory ribbons. Sure enough, baby brother attached to these blankies, hooking his finger through his favorite red ribbon, finally wearing it completely off the blanky. He’s two, and still has a bottle and a blanky. It’s been helpful to help him calm himself after his very rough start in life.

I taught mother’s day out for our church a couple of days a week for many years. I was a very sought after teacher because I never took away a child’s lovey as they came in the door like all the other teachers did. The result of this was my table was always peaceful and quiet while the other teachers dealt with screaming two year olds who had not only just had to part with their mothers, but also had their loveys taken away. I never understood the thinking of these other teachers…

Life is can be stressful and confusing even for the best of us. As adults, we have comfort foods, favorite drinks, favorite books, couches, beds or other things that we use when we need to relax and rest. Why do some parents want to deny that to their children? Loveys will never hurt the child. And it will likely make the life of the parent much nicer!

So final advice from a mother of ten, grandmother of nine and foster mother of more than fifty, let your child keep their loveys, and enjoy the peace it brings you. As you look back over the years, remembering your child’s little face against your neck as they suck, or seeing the blanky with the ribbons worn off, or knowing you thirty year old still has the blanky you made for her that she carried for many years will be a treasured thing you will hide in your heart!


  1. Right on, my sistah! I agree-- it's mean to take away lovies! They'll drop them when they're ready; it's SO not a big deal.
    --donna (fb friend :-)

  2. I have never seen a 25 year old sucking their thumb or carrying a blanket. No harm no foul. I have a granddaughter that got a rough start in life and she is 5 and still sucks her thumb and is attached to her blanket. I don't say a word to her about it. I always make sure she has her blanket when I get her from her Dad.

    Vera Bennett


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