Most kids have certain objects they cling to. When they are a year old or more, they may start having some favorite objects they want to hold on to. Baby experts call these things “comfort objects.” Eleanor Reynolds, an early childhood expert, wrote in her article entitled “Binkies, Blankets, and Bottles” and published on the website Early Childhood News, “In addition to fulfilling their need to bond, children will use comfort items for sucking.”
Comfort Objects Represent Family
When toddlers begin to bond with parents more, it’s the time they also realize their parents’ presence or absence. During infancy, the times dad and mom are out of the house doing office work mostly go unnoticed by the babies. But during the toddler years, kids begin to observe things. They also begin to seek familiar people for safety and refuge, like parents and siblings. Their absence may stress kids and sometimes build anxiety in them. And since they are left with babysitters most of the day, they need to hang on to comfort objects they can associate with people close to them.
For instance, blankets, teddy bears (and other stuffed toys), pillows, pacifiers, and feeding bottles are things they associate with their parents so they cling to these in their absence. They see their parents prepare their pillows and blankets when they go to sleep or give them the pacifier or feeding bottle when they need them. The teddy bears and stuffed toys are what dad and mom use to have fun with them. Hence, these objects become symbols of their parents’ love and comfort. They make the child feel his or her parents are around, even if they aren’t.
Teddy bears and other toys may also represent siblings who use them to play with the toddler. Thus, we may see toddlers hanging on to pillows and toys because doing so feels like family members are just around when they’re left with babysitters most of the day. [INPOSTLB]
Bonding with Babysitters
After a while, toddlers may also begin to bond with their babysitters. Clutching to comfort blankets, dolls, or any item may lessen or disappear, but some babysitters seldom last in their jobs. Frequent changes in babysitters also create stress in toddlers. On this note, Reynolds adds: “A child may begin to form close bonds with caregivers (or babysitters) but even in the best program, there is usually a high rate of turnover for teachers. Imagine the sense of loss and abandonment some children must feel when such critical aspects of their lives keep changing. It is for these reasons that children often become attached to their binkies, blankies, and bottles.”
Why Some Kids Suck on Things
The usual way stressed kids get some relief is to suck on their comfort items. Reynolds says all humans, regardless of age, get relief from stress by sucking on something. With adults, “sucking” is slightly modified to “sipping” coffee, liquor, or beverages, “chewing” gums, or “smoking” cigarettes. If adults need to do this when under stress, imagine how a helpless kid feels when he or she is alone without the family around? So, should sucking on these comfort things by kids be stopped?
Stopping Dependence on Comfort Objects
Reynolds suggests that kids may be tolerated to cling to comfort stuffed toys, blankets, hankies, even along with the sucking, for a while. It may be cruel to forfeit them of things that allay their stress or anxiety. A period of 2 to 3 years may be tolerable. But on the third year, a child still dependent on comfort objects and sucking may be gradually helped to ease out of the habit by putting these objects away.