We give birth to our babies with an inherent desire to nurture. It is our job and our privilege as parents to create safe and secure foundations for our children. This bond will be the structure from which they navigate all future relationships. We are to feed, bathe, clothe, hold and love these little beings. We are to gaze into our baby's eyes and mirror their own self-love back to them. We spend long days and nights meeting every single need of the newborn baby. While everything in us desires to take perfect care of our children, often, it is in those first months, deep within the long dark sleepless nights, we can find ourselves pushed to our edges. The newborn, intoxicating and yummy, is a round-the-clock endeavor.
By twelve weeks of age a shift begins to happen in your baby's brain. A baby begins to develop an adult- like sleep pattern. Parents may still be sleep deprived, but that little baby who had a more random sleep pattern, now needs a regular night-time sleep schedule. It is at this juncture that parents have the opportunity to tune into their babies need of a schedule. Parents can often feel anxiety during this change. Your role up until now as the "do-everything for your baby" parent begins to shift. The desire you have to do everything for your baby pushes against the much needed skill of supportively teaching your baby how to self soothe. It is from this point on that parents need to acquire a new mantra. It is now time for a parent to shift gears from omnipotent caretaker to supporter and encourager of the beginning stages of self-soothing, independent learning and exploration. This new "hat" can be challenging for parents. The question becomes, how do I love, support, nurture my child but let-go for the sake of building my baby's capacity to learn and grow? How do I support my baby to learn how to self soothe? How do I give my child the space to figure out who he is in this world and feel loved? One wonderful way for a parent to begin this process is to encourage the beloved Lovey.
A Lovey is a security object to help emotionally support your child as they transition and begin exploring the world separate of you. Lovies are usually a soft stuffed animal or a small blankie. A lovey does not have to be fancy or pricey and can be as simple as a burp cloth. A child's lovey gets worn in spots from hours of love and snuggles, soothing rhythmic motions like rubbing against a soft cheek or nose and can often hold the wonderful familiar scent of your child.
Lovey love is true love. Lovey love is pure unconditional love. Lovey love is deep and very real. A Lovey never hurts, always gives, does not demand, is always there to make you feel good and allows your child to feel safe and secure. A lovey is what I like to call a "no-matter-what".
Often parents tell me that their child has no interest in a lovey, they have tried and tried but no matter how hard they have tried, their baby just won't attach to what they have chosen. This is quite understandable. If your baby still has you doing everything in order for him to fall asleep, your baby will have no motivation to self soothe and he will have no use for his lovey. By allowing appropriate space to learn, your child will likely gravitate to a soft cuddly friend to sleep with. All of my own children refer to their lovies as "Special friends" because that is exactly what they are, a true and very real friend.
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
- It is important that you choose a lovey that is infant safe or age appropriate, washable and does not have any parts that are choking hazards such as plastic eyes and noses. If you are unsure of what lovey to choose or encourage, ask your child's pediatrician. Many lovey manufacturers have guidelines on their websites. I suggest buying more than one of the same kind of lovey in the unfortunate event that it gets lost. The loss of a loved lovey is a heartbreaking experience for a child and can be devastating for all. You will find yourself frantically retracing your every step, scouring the streets, posting flyers and visiting websites like www.lostmylovey.com. It is always a safe and germ-free option to leave your child's lovey at home.