My four-year-old son Willem has been besotted with his lovey since he was about a month old. While he has flirted for brief periods with the giraffe and elephant that came in that fateful blankie three-pack, “Doggie Blankie,” pictured here, remains his great, enduring love. The moment he comes upon it after a short and sometimes frantic search, his instant calm—and palpable joy—are, well, pavlovian. Yes, I squirreled away a couple of understudies early on—”Fat-Nose Blankie,” as he refers to the impostors, are named for their unsatisfying plush (read: unloved) features. Those were the days when I thought I was such a clever mommy. As he approaches five, I have begun to wonder what the limits on the affair should be. He doesn’t take it to school, though he has been known to sneak it in his backpack on occasion. Our rules are at home and in the car, though sometimes in a moment of weakness, I have broken down and let him bring it to restaurants or to friends’ houses (“in case he gets tired,” I reason). My husband insists that I am spoiling our son, that he has to grow up and, on some level, objects to Willem’s attachment to his lovey, even at home. It should be known that Willem is also a thumbsucker, but when I watch the blankie-thumb nirvana that washes over him, I wonder how anyone can argue with that. Still I wrestle with that fuzzy line between allowing a kid to self-soothe by any means necessary, and standing in the way of him growing up. Thoughts?


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Comments (21)


  1. Just read Owen last night (Kevin Henkes). All about this.
    See also Jill Murphy’s the Last Noo-Noo.

    One of my son’s best friends carried hers about, cut up Owen style & carried about till maybe third grade. She’s 12 & doesn’t carry one anymore. 😉

  2. Posted by: Tina

    My son has a similar one, though I took some advice somewhere I read from Gwyneth Paltrown’s nanny and bought a soft small scrap of one. (I am truly embarrassed that I just admitted I read an article about Gwynie’s nanny, but…there you have it.). My son just turned 4 and although he has never tried to leave the house with it, I just started a new limit with keeping it in bed. We call his a “muzzy” and it stays in bed. He pitched a little bit of a fit the first couple of times but I figured as long as it’s in his bed…what should anyone care?

  3. My 8 year old still sleeps with his fuzzy and loves it with abandon – I still see that perfect joy when he climbs into bed and sees it like it’s a surprise (really? You didn’t know it would be there?). The only limit I’ve placed upon it is that it stay home during the day so that it doesn’t get lost or ruined and this has grown into a very loving but not dependent (indpendent, duh) relationship with the fuzzy. I know lots of boys his age and older who still love their lovies and even some adults who still tuck them under their pillows. As long as they don’t take them to work, I figure ther must be some normal in there somewhere.

    Husbands have a way of “manning up” our boys, sometimes as a knee-jerk response. Whenever my husband does this I always say. “let’s go call your mother and ask what you did as a child.”. That usually takes care of it.

  4. Posted by: persteph

    I am a blankie lover. I had one and I will tell you that there is nothing quite like the feeling of calm that comes over me when I touch that thing. It’s magical. Now that I’m a married woman with a baby myself, I don’t, of course, sleep with it anymore. But my 18-month-old loves hers too (hers are interchangeable Aden+Anais muslin blankets), and while I have some issues with her addiction to her pacifier (we will be trying to break that by 2), I will let her keep the blankie indefinitely. It’s totally harmless security. I think having some rules and boundaries is a good idea (not in school, and maybe as he gets older, not outside of his room, except for sleepovers and vacations).

  5. Posted by: Marta

    My daughter is 4 and has a similar lovey (also called Doggie). She is allowed to tote it to preschool, although it stays in her cubbie, and she sleeps and plays with it at home. I am in no hurry to rush her out of her childhood, so we don’t block Doggie’s presence too much. There will come a day (too soon) when she gives up Doggie on her own, and I will be unbearably sad. I don’t want the mystique of childhood to end! But what we have done recently is taken Doggie to Classic Kids Photography and participated in the Lovey Project (discovered here on Momfilter) and had Doggie photographed for posterity. We plan to give my daughter her Doggie portrait for her birthday next month.

    I was a thumb-sucker as a child and didn’t drop it until late elementary age (8 or 9, maybe?) and it didn’t do me any harm. I learned to be selective about when I did it (at the end, it was just as I was going to sleep). The worst thing about it is what it does to teeth.

  6. Posted by: Jen

    My eldest still has a blanket and bear. She’s 8. One day, she may grow out of it. I imagine it will come when she’s going to more sleep overs.

    But for now, there’s nothing wrong in having an item of comfort. I liken it to my morning cup of coffee or my favorite robe. We all have something we enjoy and allows us to de-stress. For a four year old, it makes sense that it’s blanket and thumb sucking.

    Plus, your son may drop the thumb sucking as soon as he loses his front two teeth. It won’t feel the same, so it may just be the thing that breaks that Pavlovian response.

  7. Posted by: Suzanne

    My 7 year old has the same one (“Mousie” is his, although we also had the flat elephant and the lion). He’s not that attached to it anymore, but still sleeps with it sometimes and likes knowing it’s around if he wants it. He’ll drape it over one shoulder in his sleep exactly as he did as an infant, which I think is so sweet.

    I don’t think there’s any harm as long as he can leave the house without it. I think I must have been 10 or 12 when the window washers took “Blankie”– my true love– from our house, mistaking it for one of their dirty rags. I still remember the “cold turkey” experience of that!

  8. I personally wish my older daughter’s had more of a love for one animal. My 3 year old would not go anywhere without her Angel Dear ducky and then graduated to a Jellycat Piggie and he goes a lot of places. I love that she has someone, I love the loyalty to that animal. I don’t know the answer but I think there is nothing sweeter that a child’s love for an animal.

  9. Posted by: ~M

    My kids never got particularly attached to their loveys. The binky (the pacifier) is the clear winner with both. We used the lovey as a special cover for my son’s binkies when we were breaking him of using it during the day. We’d put a clean binky on his bed under the lovey for use at naptime and bedtime. He broke the binky habit at 4 and it was tough. I wasn’t willing to do it before then as I feel that kids need to self soothe and a pacifier is better than a thumb (can’t get rid of their thumbs, can we?)
    The binky habit will be much harder to break with my 2.5 year-old, but I’m not rushing it. We tend to follow our kids’ leads on stuff and they constantly surprise us.
    All of that said, I think the lovey-stays-at-home rule is a good one when it is time, but they should be able to have it at home indefinitely!

  10. Posted by: Jessica

    Neither my daughter (age 5) nor my son (age 4) developed an attachment to a specific lovey, but I must admit that I (age 35) have been known to pull out my much-loved Holly Hobbie blanket my grandmother made for me when I was a baby.

    Though I’ve “handed it down” to my daughter, I have no qualms about “borrowing” it from time to time … that beautiful, blue blankie has been with me through EVERYTHING … my parents’ divorce, dissolutions of friendships, finding out he wasn’t the one, finding the one who was the one, my daughter’s birth, my son’s birth. I’ve showered that blanket with so many tears, both of joy and sorrow. Heaven forbid anyone ever told me I couldn’t cuddle up with HH (as the family calls her) when I needed time to reflect, feel and get ready to move on. (It’s amazing HH has held on as long as she has; thankfully my daughter is a thoughtful steward!!)

    I’ll admit I’ve looked askance at my children’s friends who drag their loveys everywhere, but then I remember HH and how I HAD TO HAVE HER sometimes … and, jeez, I turned out all right. So what harm is there, really? Flexibility is so important to our development and I’m thankful my parents gave me that … no “you’re 5 and you have to put Holly Hobbie away” … I figured out on my own when to give HH a rest. I think it’s like that for most kids.

    sorry to go on … i had a lot more to say than i realized 😉

  11. Posted by: JJ

    Why force your child to grow up any quicker than necessary? It isn’t hindering his learning, it isn’t a destructive habit. It is a joy, it is a love.
    We constantly bemoan how quickly our kids grow up, but so many parents seem to want to hurry it along under the guise of “we don’t want to spoil him” Really? I don’t think teaching our children to self-soothe and to feel and express love and affection are spoiling.
    Spoiling is giving them every toy known to man, never saying no because we don’t want to deal with the temper tantrum in the short run (rather than seeing that those lessons take sooner rather than later) and not teaching our children to respect and empathize with others.
    Let him keep it for as long as he wants, rules in place and enjoy those moments of joy because soon enough they will only be a memory

  12. Posted by: Katie

    oh, so glad to see this. i’ve been beating myself up over this situation with my little guy… just past 4 years old and addicted to his stuffed alligator (Al, of course). He brings Al to school but only uses him at nap time, and I’m expecting school to suggest he stop bringing Al in next year. Unfortunately, unlike Owen’s Fuzzy, we can’t really cut Al up, but I’m kind of really with Marta on this one. What a short window we have here, and it’s so sweet after he’s had a day of battling evil Sith Lords (Star Wars fan) and fending off dragons, that he can snuggle up with Al and just bliss out. Gotta say—I’m a little jealous… Anyway, not sure how we’ll approach it, but I know that soon Al will be staying home with the cats during the day, just waiting for his buddy to come home and give him massive hugs…

  13. Posted by: JeanW

    I had a friend in college who still slept with his blankie. When he was in the college infirmary for a tonsillectomy, his blankie was accidentally taken off to the laundry with the bedsheets. He was quite upset, but the nurses assured him not to worry, that such things happened frequently. Sure enough the blankie was returned to the nurses’ station the next morning.

    So even in college it’s OK! :-)

  14. Posted by: Sharon

    I think you have to know your kid, too.

    My second was a binkie lover. Had this whole wacky ritual where he really wanted about 8 in the crib/bed with him and he would take them in and out of his mouth. We would talk about giving them up but it seemed pointless. Helped him sleep therefore helped us sleep and he was good about keeping it for bed and naptime only. Then, one day, at four yrs old, he proclaimed he was done. And that was it. This is totally in keeping with his personality. He doesn’t work at stuff – he just does it when he can.

    His older sister, on the other hand, loves to have a goal to work towards. Never used the pacifier, but still sucks her thumb on occasion.

    I also think it’s helpful to teach self soothing replacements, not just taking these items away. It’s an important skill that, I think, was overlooked by many parents generations before us.

  15. My daughter is 6 and still uses her Little Giraffe lovies (yes 3 of them) She’s never sucked her thumb but nuzzles her mouth up to the little label and pushes her lips out like she did when she was nursing -it is still adorable to watch and totally calms her down. The rule is the lovies stay in her bedroom unless she’s really tired or sick then they’re allowed on the sofa. I don’t expect it will stop anytime soon and I am not concerned about it.
    Writing this is reminding me I need to sew the label back on her favorite one before she loses it. :)

  16. Posted by: Deborah Pletsch-Smith

    My son — now seven — has three identical flat ducks (clever us, there used to be one for home, one for daycare, and one for the wash, and it worked very well until he discovered that there were three… from then on I had to track three friends instead of just one). There were ubiquitous companions until he was about 5 — today he still sleeps with the ducks, and one usually comes on vacation with us. They’ve largely been relegated to bedtime ritual status now, but when he’s hurt or upset, the duckies still provide an enormous amount of comfort to him that I’m grateful for. I think it’s hard to actually get in the way of children growing up — more difficult today is keeping them young and innocent… in that vein I’m a lovey supporter all the way…

  17. Posted by: trish

    My sons(9 and 7) both have a lovey they sleep with. My husband and I have never really thought of weening them off of them. As the boys have gotten older the loveys have been taken fewer places. The just turned 7 year old still likes to drag his Sheepie around. This weekend we went to my folks house for the long weekend. When we got in the car I told my 9 year old that I had not put Elephant in the car. DS looked at me and said, “That is ok. I don’t really need him much any more. I will be fine.” So Elephant stayed home. I think that for the most part I am fine with letting kids make this call.

  18. Posted by: casey

    i still sleep with rocky, my beloved raccoon, and pack him in my suitcase when i travel. my husband has always accepted him and has been known to sneak in a snuggle when taking a nap. he’s been restitched and restuffed along the way and would be the only possession i would grab if the house was on fire.

  19. Posted by: JennyAnn Wheeler

    I love the responses to this post, especially that every parents seems really clear that self soothing is not being spoiled. when our children learn to self sooth, they are practicing emotional regulation. It is hard work and anything that gets them to the place of center is great. As adults we need to relearn more ways to self sooth and tkaing a cue from our kids is healthy. What do you sooth with? Anything goes (as long as that thing isn’t harmful or readily becomes an issue of safety?health e.g, drugs/alcohol, food, shopping, gambling) although it is best if the behavior is ritual, repetetive and you are good at it.
    as far as “manning up” little boys- many men are threatened when they see their boys expressing the full range of human emotion. Why are so many men like this? Because they theymselves were taught that it isn’t ok for litte boys to show a need for gentleness, sorrow, vulnerability or other emotions we (incorrectly) label as “feminine”. It is a hearsick occurance, having to squash roughly half of your own emotional expression and then channel all that energy into the one or two acceptable “male” emotional outlets: aggression or anger.
    Boys, as well as girls, deserve to mature with their emotional world intact!

  20. Posted by: angela

    The lovey is a beautiful thing…but its loss is a necessary evil. Obviously this post is IMHO- so here goes my comment

    I am 32. My DH is 36.
    My husband is ‘Linus’ from Peanuts. While many younger readers won’t understand that reference I mean to say that my husband is smart and tall and handsome and well adjusted…except for his ‘blankie’.
    He gets weird attachments to comforters. No one ever made him put his lovey away. It never “got lost” or got so destroyed it needed disposal.
    He is one of the rare cases in which sociocultural norms did not discourage his blankie use. Broken home + abusive father equated to low self esteem – so there were few friends and thus there was no social pressure to encourage his detachment from the rectangular poly-cotton blend of fabric.

    We got into a fight this evening because its night time and 60° outside and the windows are open but he was all sweaty and cranky because he was covered with a giant heavy winter duvet that he refuses to put into storage for the summer.

    He is a wonderful husband and father. I’ve read lots of blogs devoted to relational issues and his issues are most certainly NOT as problematic as lots of other wives encounter. He does laundry and washes dishes, he thinks I’m hot after 7 years/two kids/and the 60lbs my thyroid goiter has helped me keep.
    BUT his lovey attachment is much like one to a ratty old recliner that gets put in a man cave…except I’m on the couch while he and his giant heavy winter duvet hog the bed.

    Our culture is not designed to tolerate the perpetual use of a lovey unless that attachment is transferred to a (socially deemed) appropriate object such as a lazy boy recliner (For men).
    As for me- my blankie lovey got “lost” when I was seven and I remember feeling the safety and security of the attachment which has only been mirrored by how I feel when my DD’s ages 4 and 7 come into my room to snuggle on weekend mornings.
    The point is that the ‘lovey’ level of attachment is healthy and helps make social connections but it can also be a crutch and cause social development interruption if not appropriatly mitigated.
    I firmly believe that the lovey’s purpose is to teach the feelinng of safety and security BUT it needs to make its exit at an age or developmentally appropriate time to encourage bonding relationship building with people
    Not things.

  21. Pingback: Motherhood Mondays: How long did you have a lovey? | A CUP OF JO

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