When Can Babies Sleep with a Stuffed Animal? How to Introduce a Lovey

by | Feb 14, 2024 | Blog, Emotional Well-Being, Podcast, Sleep Challenges, Sleep Foundations | 0 comments

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As new parents, we’re always striving to create a safe and comforting environment for our little ones, especially when it comes to their sleep.  And it’s very common for babies and young children to sleep with a special toy or blanket to add that extra safety.  

You probably remember your favourite plush animal or security blanket you slept with as a child!  

That being said, safe sleep guidelines have changed dramatically we were children.  And it’s important to know when babies are allowed to sleep with a stuffed animal or lovey.  

In this blog post, I’ll discuss when the right time is for babies to sleep with a stuffed animal or special sleep toy.  I will also offer tips on how to introduce a lovey to your baby’s sleep routine.  

It’s a worthwhile read!

When can babies sleep with a stuffed animal

What is a lovey?

A lovey refers to a stuffed animal or comfort item that your little one forms a special connection with.  They offer your little one a sense of security and comfort during transitions, new experiences, and unfamiliar surroundings.

After your child reaches 12 months of age, a lovey can also be beneficial for promoting better sleep.

Why are loveys so wonderful?

Introducing a comfort toy to a baby or toddler can offer many benefits for their emotional well-being and development. Here are some of these benefits:  

  • They provide little ones with a comforting presence when it’s their bedtime.  By incorporating a lovey into your little one’s bedtime routine, it serves as a cue that sleep time is coming.
  • The soft texture and familiar scent of a lovey can help soothe and calm a baby experiencing separation anxiety by offering a sense of reassurance and stability in unfamiliar environments or during transitions. Examples of these transitions include transitioning to daycare and traveling.  
  • Loveys provide your little one comfort when they’re sick or teething.
  • Comfort toys can play a crucial role in promoting self-soothing skills and independence in toddlers. As children grow, they naturally begin to explore their surroundings and assert their independence. And yet, they still crave the comfort and reassurance of a familiar object. A lovey serves as a constant companion, offering emotional support and companionship as toddlers navigate new experiences and challenges. 
  • As your toddler’s imagination expands, a lovey or security blanket can serve as a comforting aid in alleviating bedtime fears and nightmares. When you snuggle with your little one and the lovey together, they begin to associate the comforting presence of the lovey with the security and warmth of your affectionate embrace.

At what age can babies sleep with a stuffed animal or blanket? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping soft objects, including stuffed animals and blankets, out of the crib during the first year of life to reduce the risk of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This precaution is crucial because many babies under age 1 lack the motor skills to move objects away from their faces if they accidentally become covered.

This is why I recommend dressing young babies in sleep sacks (such as these ones*) instead of offering a blanket.  A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that is safe to sleep in during your baby’s first year because it can’t be kicked off!

While the risk of SIDS decreases after the first year, it’s still essential to exercise caution when introducing soft items into your baby’s sleep environment. Supervision is key! Make sure to regularly inspect stuffed animals for any loose parts or damage that could pose a choking hazard.

Most experts agree that it’s safest to wait until after the first year to introduce a lovey into your baby’s crib. By this age, many infants have developed the strength and coordination necessary to move objects away from their faces if needed.

When can babies sleep with a stuffed animal

Can I introduce a lovey to my baby before 12 months?

Even though loveys should only be used for sleep time after your baby’s first birthday, you CAN introduce a comfort item at any age to be used outside of sleep time.  For example, you can:

  • ​snuggle with it during your bedtime routine while you’re reading books or feeding your baby;
  • take it with you in the stroller for a walk;
  • offer it to your baby as comfort for when he’s upset.

Tips for introducing a lovey

Here are my top tips to help babies sleep safely and securely with a stuffed animal:

  1. Choose the right stuffed animal.  When selecting a stuffed animal for your baby, choose one that is specifically designed for infants, meets safety standards, and is made from soft, plush material- such as this one*. Avoid loveys with small parts that could pose a choking hazard. Watch out for toys with button eyes or loose threads that could easily come undone.  
  2. Introduce a smaller toy.  Ensure the lovey is small enough that they can pick it up and snuggle it on their own.  If it’s too big or heavy for your little one to lift by himself, don’t put it in the crib.  We need to ensure your baby is in a safe sleeping environment.
  3. Get extras.  Remember that you’ll need a lovey for when your little one is at daycare or grandma’s house, or when the other lovey is in the washing machine.  And make sure to choose a lovey that’s easily replaceable in case it gets lost!
  4. Associate with comfort. Encourage positive associations with the lovey by using it during comforting moments, such as cuddle time or feeding. For example, you can wedge it between the two of you when feeding your baby.  You can also gently rub the lovey against your baby’s skin to transfer your scent, which can provide additional comfort when they sleep.
  5. Monitor your baby’s response. Pay close attention to how your baby responds to the lovey during sleep. If they seem restless with the stuffed animal in the crib, remove it and try again later.
  6. Use as a transitional object. As your baby grows older, the lovey can serve as a comforting transitional object during times of separation or change, such as when napping at daycare or when traveling. Having a familiar object nearby can provide a sense of security and reassurance for your little one when they’re in an unfamiliar place.
  7. Be patient.  The most important thing to remember is that your little one might not warm up to a lovey right way.  Developing a bond with a lovey can take time!  Keep offering opportunities to interact with the lovey over time.  

A note about introducing a lovey to an older baby who is bedsharing and/or nursing frequently at night

I can’t tell you how often I see older babies and toddlers who are bedsharing and/or feeding on demand throughout the night showing absolutely NO interest in a stuffed animal.  

And it comes as no surprise to me. 

This is because MOM (or Dad) is the lovey!  These babies have absolutely NO interest in bonding with a teddy bear or loose blanket.  Afterall, they’re getting ALL the comfort they need at night from their parents.

The good news is that this is very fixable! With a proper sleep plan, we CAN wean your little one off of your presence as a sleep prop.  

And as your little one becomes an independent sleeper, suddenly there WILL be room for comfort from something else!

A Final Note

If your baby, toddler, or preschooler is still struggling with their sleep, I can help!  Start by watching my free sleep masterclass that will teach you how to get your little one consistently sleeping through the night so you can feel like a functioning human again!

Free sleep masterclass for sleep training

Loveys and sleep sacks I love

  • For a winter sleep sack best for cooler temperatures, check out THIS.
  • For a summer sleep sack best for warmer temperatures, check out THIS.
  • For an example of a lovey that is safe to give an older baby to sleep with, check out THIS.

*I may earn a commission from links on this page at no additional cost to you, but I only recommend products I love.

Additional Resources

How to Teach Your Toddler to Sleep Without Mom

Nap Training Guide: How to Sleep Train Your Baby for Naps

Dropping the Morning Nap: 5 Signs Your Baby is Ready

How to Get Your Little One Sleeping in Late in the Morning

The 2-3-4 Nap Schedule- Will it Work for Your Baby?

How to Know When it’s Time for Your Toddler to Drop their Midday Naps?

What You Need to Know About Your Toddler’s Sleep Regression

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