COMFORT AND JOY


By Tizzie Hall


YOUR BABY MAGAZINE 2006/07 EDITION


People often ask me what the difference is between a ‘comforter’ and an ‘aid’ because I recommend using a sleep comforter and I spend lots of time telling parents that sleeping aids are a definite no-no.


In reality, they are both aids in essence but the way I see it, there are two types of aid. You have sleeping aids which may become a problem – such as rocking, patting, feeding or giving your baby a dummy to suck on while going to sleep – and then you have good aids, such as comforters, which do not require parent participation. Aids that require your attention are a problem, in my opinion.


However, something which provides comfort and which the baby can easily find himself when he wakes in the middle of the night or between sleep cycles can be a parent’s best friend.


Every baby finds an aid of some sort to comfort himself with just before he goes to sleep. Unless the parents have introduced the aids themselves, they are usually unaware of just what it is that is comforting their baby at sleep time (with the exception of thumb sucking). An unintroduced comforter could be holding, rubbing or playing peek-a-boo with the sheets or blankets but sometimes it can be a little more complicated. I have seen babies play with the bars of their cots just before falling asleep. That is their comforter and this can cause a problem when you ask one of these babies to fall asleep anywhere away from their beloved cot bars. If they don’t have the bars to play with, they can’t fall asleep. Another common comforter is playing with labels or tags on bedding or clothing.


One case that I have dealt with previously – involving a baby called Luke – is very relevant to this issue. As I seem to be coming across more and more babies like Luke, I though I would use this column to share with you his story in more detail.


Luke’s parents contacted me when he was 10 months old. Up until this stage, he had always been a good sleeper. His parents had started Luke on my routines when he was five weeks old. At 10 weeks, he had started to sleep all night and had done so nearly every night since. But then, suddenly, at 10 months he was finding it hard to go to sleep and once asleep he was waking up crying several times throughout the night.


I consulted Luke’s parents several times over the phone but we couldn’t work out what the problem was so I decided a house visit was the only option. After putting Luke to bed I decided to sneak into his room on all fours and observe him in an effort to work out what the problem was.


At first, things looked okay. They had put Luke to bed and he was lying down looking like he was ready for sleep. I watched him and saw a funny movement in his wrist. He was pulling his fingers up as though he was trying to scratch his wrist before he became frustrated and starter to cry. It was not the cry you hear when a baby is fighting sleep. He seemed genuinely upset and had tears so I picked him up and went to talk to his parents. After a few minutes we realised he was looking for the sleeves of his pyjamas but he couldn’t find them anywhere as he was now in short sleeves for Summer. It was now obvious to us all what Luke’s problem had been. We had spent hours on the phone trying to work out what was different about Luke’s environment and I felt very silly that we had not considered the Summer pee-jays to be an issue. We put Luke back in long sleeves and he started sleeping through the night again.


This was a clear case of a baby who was comforting himself to sleep using an aid that the parents were totally unaware of. It is also a good example of why it is better for parents to choose their baby’s comforter for them so you know what it is but it can be just about anything so long as it is safe to place in the cot with your baby.


TRICKS OF THE TRADE


There are also a few tricks to introducing a comforter to your baby. I believe mum should put it down her top for a few hours to allow her smell to infiltrate it before putting the comforter in the cot near baby’s face so he can turn and snuggle into it. It is amazing to watch a baby take solace from their comforter.


It is my experience that babies with comforters are much happier and more secure as they progress though certain milestones in their lives.


Research has shown that around nine months babies often become very clingy to mum as they realise they are individuals and not a part of their mother. A comforter seems to help with this transition.


Meanwhile, in Germany there has been some research published which states that slightly older children also feel much more secure if they have a comforter with them on occasions when they are separated from mum, such as the first few visits to kinder or daycare. I also support this notion but feel you should quickly wean your child off taking it once they are settled.


I also firmly recommend that a comforter is only given to a baby or toddler at sleep times or on occasions when some additional comfort is required, such as a visit to the doctor. In my opinion, it is not good for children or babies to be carrying their comforter around all day.



PLAYING GAMES


One other issue I often get called about is when suddenly, around 10 months, the comforter starts getting thrown out of the cot. The first time it happens it could be an accident, so walk in without making eye contact or talking and very calmly return it to the cot. If this becomes a ritual, the baby is probably game-playing. I suggest parents in these situations explain to their baby that if they throw the comforter out it will stay there and they won’t have it to sleep with. If this continues, don’t go straight away but instead wait until you feel your baby has realised their comforter may not be coming back. Then walk in without eye contact or talking and give it back. Each time you should wait considerably longer before going back and the game will soon stop,



COMFORTER TIPS


  • Make sure your baby can still breathe if the comforter gets over his face…

  • Make sure your baby can not get it tangled around his neck (about 36cm by 36cm is best)…

  • A downside to soft toys is that they can become a problem if they are too big or too small. Large toys may be used as an escape tool when the baby is bigger while small toys can get lost during the night.

  • I also recommend that you have a duplicate of the comforter and that it is machine washable. This means you can rotate and wash them periodically as well as ensuring you have a back-up in the event of loss or damage.