Figuring out when and how to separate your child from comfort objects like bottles, blankies, pacifiers and any other meaningful object is always tricky. Just ask Parents Ask reader Amy Kaplan, mom to 1 year old Gabi who refuses to take a bottle. Amy has been trying to wean her from the breast, but is having a difficult time with transitioning Gabi. Today, Parents Ask expert Dr. Bonnie Zucker, Psy.D, author of Anxiety-Free Kids weighs in on this common problem as well.
Q: Comfort Objects: At what age should children put their binkies, blankies and bottles to bed? Any quick tips for weaning or going cold turkey?
A: Comfort objects are frequently used by children as part of self-soothing and can also be a special (sometimes sacred) part of childhood. Some of these objects are called “transitional objects” by psychologists, as they help the child transition into more independent behaviors and situations, such as falling asleep on their own. Ranging from a blankie to a lovely to a favorite stuffed animals, these “objects” help your child cope with separations, new situations, and can bring a great deal of warmth and comfort to your child. Many parents express concern about long-term use of these items, and often expect that their child will “grow out of it”. While many children do eventually decide that they don’t “need” or want their binkie or blankie anymore, many children continue to use them.
It can be a bit challenging to see your child continue to use these items when other kids their age have given them up; however, I strongly believe that the decision needs to be up to the child. Most of the decisions in a child’s life are not made by the child- where they go to school, what they eat, their bedtime, etc, are all decided for them by their parents or other adults. A child’s transitional object is theirs and it should be up to them if they want to continue using it. Continued use of a lovely, stuffed animal, or blankie will not cause harm to your child; however, taking it away from them or forcing them to give it up can potentially be damaging as it will likely be perceived as a loss.