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Posts Tagged ‘Security blanket’

The Need to Feel Secure

The need to feel secure is a serious matter when children are out of their parents’ care.  Their emotional cues are the key to understanding what can help them in being comfortable and appropriately dependent.  From thumb-sucking and pacifiers to “loveys and softies,” children must be allowed to discover and use the props that help them to comfort themselves and manage stress, especially when parents are absent.  That children can use these props and tactics is a testament to their parents’ success in helping them to cope with life’s discomforts and uncertainties.

These objects are transitional.  As children grow in their capacities to adapt to and manage change and troublesome emotions, they will give them up on their own.  I advise parents not to take them away, especially during these transitions.  On the contrary.  Keep them in good repair!  I have seen blankets and toys that were rags and shadows of their former selves, glues, patched, and re-stitched, still providing soothing magic.

Thumb-sucking into the second year can cause some tooth disruption if it is especially intense and prolonged.  Pacifiers are kinder to the mouth and teeth because they distribute sucking pressure more evenly throughout the mouth.  By the first birthday, the need for non-nutritive sucking usually starts to diminish, so that by 18 months, walking and talking are picking up the self-stimulation slack.  Comforting should be spread out over rocking, cuddling, softies, etc., lessening the appetite for sucking.

The Pacifier Perspective

Infant Boy AIn thirty plus years of  working with infants, toddlers, preschoolers (and their parents) and with four children and four grandchildren of my own, I’ve seen thousands of pacifiers come and go.  It can be hard to keep perspective when it’s your child who is drooling away on his pacifier. So many parents feel guilty about pacifier use as though it reveals them to be insufficient caretakers or giving in to the demands of the child. I confess readily that I, too, have searched in wee hours to find the nearest all-night convenience store, hoping against hope to find the required make/model of the ‘peacekeeper.’

So here’s the deal: pacifiers have their place. Once your infant is gaining weight and nursing reliably, a little non-nutritive sucking can be a good thing if your particular child is interested in it (most are). We’ve raised both kinds of children, so it’s worth waiting to find out if yours is interested, rather than giving a pacifier to a baby who doesn’t want it. It should be a joint decision between baby and parents.  However, babies who suck at night seem to have a lower risk of SIDS and tend to sleep more regularly for a bit longer as their sleep habits mature, so it might be worth encouraging, even if your child doesn’t take to it immediately.

Trouble with pacifiers doesn’t usually start until children start to walk. They start dropping the pacifier in the most disgusting places. If they also start to talk soon after, the cork effect seems troubling to parents. One of our early talkers would remove it to fire off a few sentences and then re-plug herself so quickly we had to turn our attention away to keep from laughing.

So when should the child stop? Most pediatricians in the U.S. (standards vary globally) will encourage stopping by age two.  I don’t believe that long-term pacifier use slows speech development.  However, my dental colleagues have stronger science backing up their concerns that ‘extended pacifier use (heavy use beyond 20-24 months)’ leads to crossbites and open bites. When back teeth close during chewing and front teeth don’t, a child has an ‘open bite,’ which can sometimes self-correct. When the upper palate and arch narrow through extensive pacifier use, self-correction is rare and your dental co-pay will get your attention.

If you’re worried that you’re approaching or in the ‘danger-zone’ of extended use, talk to your pediatrician about strategies for weaning your child from the pacifier – you’ll need the pediatrician to support your own resolve since fatigue so regularly erodes parental judgement. Strategies can range from helpful children’s books on pacifier farewells, outright bribery (goods and services in exchange for pacifier pitching), the invocation of magical forces (pacifier fairies) or promoting the joys of giving pacifiers to babies when you are not one anymore (passing down pacifiers). The earlier you start, the easier the process, but prepare for some tears and stress. As you’ve heard in this blog before, manageable stress ending in mastery is emotional nutrition and feels really good – eventually.

Magical “Lovies”: Your Child’s Favorite Stuffed Animal

Has your young toddler started carrying around a favorite stuffed animal or blankie? Their attachment to this beloved object is normal—and can even be helpful! These “lovies” allow your little one to soothe him or herself in stressful moments and provide comfort or courage. The feeling of security is so important for a child during the transitional time of toddlerhood.

Just what is the magic behind the tattered blankie, soft pup-pup or fuzzy little froggy? These lovies help our toddlers to control their insecurities or frustrations. Many children select a lovey that is soft, comforting and calming for them to rub, cuddle or hug when mommy or daddy may not be readily available. Some may pick a lovey that reminds them of mommy or daddy. And, some may choose a lovey that seems completely odd to parents, but makes perfect sense to them in their unique and magical toddler world.

But, once your little one has become smitten—you know, the “won’t leave the house without it” kind of smitten—consider picking up a “stunt double.” If your lovey is machine washable, switch them out each week so they wear evenly. Set limits as to when the lovey can accompany your child to reduce the chance of it getting lost: “It is ok for Pup-pup to come to School, but he must stay in the cubby except during naptime,” or “Froggy can ride with us to the supermarket, but must wait in the car while we shop.”