Have you been wondering if a stuffed animal will help your child not feel “alone” at night? Are you convinced your baby is cold and needs a blanket? Before you add something to the crib, stop to think about age-appropriate safety guidelines!
If you’re like me, you’ve had a precious stuffed bunny that was gifted at a baby shower sitting in a box. When you opened it at the shower, you pictured the precious life this bunny would live. Hugged tightly each night, adored during the day, and never forgotten for family vacations. But for 12 months, it lived on a shelf or in a box until it was finally time to introduce a stuffed animal!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nothing within the child’s crib until 12 months old. At that point, it is okay to offer a small blanket or comfort item.
At Little Z’s, I am all about safe sleep. We want to make sure we’re following the AAP safe sleep environment recommendation guidelines. We want to make sure your child has the appropriate sleep environment and setup, but we also want to make sure we make sleep a thing.
Under 12 months of age, nothing should be in your child’s sleep space. I know you see Pinterest videos and images of all the beautiful nurseries with blankets and stuffed animals. And while they are cute, they are not safe. For 0 to 12-month-olds, there should be nothing in their sleep space, except for the mattress fitted with a flat sheet.
Let’s talk about introducing stuffed animals and blankets to a young toddler. You might consider adding a stuffed animal or blanket to your child’s crib for security and as a sleep cue to ease bedtime.
Alternatively, you may have no intention of giving your young toddler a stuffed animal or a blanket to sleep with. That’s fine and it’s definitely not required, but at Little Z’s, we think they are a great tool to provide self-soothing for your child at home and while you are traveling. In fact, when we prepare for a trip, a stuffed animal is often the first item we pack!
You have a world of choices when it comes to “comfort items” which include…
Stuffed animal (these Jelly Cats are my favorite!)
In the beginning, I would start with 1 comfort item. And over time, introduce another. I have a rule of 2s with my clients when it comes to stuffed animals though! There’s no need to invite the zoo to bed! Two are enough to keep track of, and not wake in a panic at night when the whole gang isn’t there.
Inevitably your child will take a little while to fall asleep with this new object. I’d much rather preserve nap time and have the new comfort item come in for bedtime. In the weeks leading up, you can always choose to bring the comfort item out and leave it in their room to see and become familiar with. Then, during your child’s bedtime routine show your child their buddy!
Cue the child to hold their buddy: “Can you hold bunny while we read a story? I’m sure bunny would love to read with us!”
Enjoy books and laughs with your child and their new comfort item. Then, when it’s about time to get into the crib, tell them, “Squeeze bunny tight! It’s time for night-night!” Place your child in the crib with their new pal, and say, “You can sleep with bunny now! Can you show me how to hug bunny? Good job!”
Offer praises and even help guide your child to how to hold their stuffed buddy or blanket. Honestly though, most children don’t need to be taught how to cuddle something! It’s pretty innate within them 🙂
Leave the room as normal and just have fun watching them on the monitor. If they are anything like my girls, it was a good 30-45 minutes of playing with their new friend before settling down. Often times they would fall asleep with bunny or lamby way on the other side of the crib. Oh well! It was there if they wanted them.
If your child doesn’t seem to care about their new comfort addition, that’s okay! You’ve offered and maybe one day they’ll latch onto it! The goal is to create a connection with a blanket or comfort item that THEY control and can help them self-soothe each night. A bonus perk?! It makes traveling a bit easier. We pack up all the buddies for our girls every time we travel, and they LOVE having these reminders from home with them.
The addition of a pillow usually happens around 2 years old, or a bit sooner if you notice your child using the stuffed animal AS a pillow! Adding a pillow to the crib is similar to adding a stuffed animal. Offer the pillow at bedtime routine, and show your child how they can lay their head down on the pillow. I can almost guarantee that bedtime will be a bit delayed as you watch your child play around with it on the monitor…but again, we’ve got to learn sometime! Might as well be at bedtime routine instead of sacrificing a naptime!
Looking for toddler pillow recommendations? While I’ve typically grabbed a 2-pack at Home Goods for my girls to share, these are also highly rated options on Amazon:
I hope you’re filled with all the confidence in the world on how to offer comfort items for your kiddo. I am so thankful that you have been here with us week after week, as we continue to help you make sleep training changes in your home.
Sweet dreams. See you next time.
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