When my daughter was born, my partner and I were gifted enough stuffed animals to fill a room. They were cute when they were decorations on the shelves of her nursery, sure, but I remembered how much I loved sleeping with a stuffed animal as a child (and even as an adult don't judge me). So, yes, I absolutely asked myself, "When can my baby have a stuffed animal in the crib?" Much to my dismay, I found out that I had to wait a while. Hey, safety first.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) website Healthychildren.org, suggests that parents consider introducing a stuffed animal or other lovey to their child to comfort them at bedtime or when they are stressed out. According to the same AAP website, "these special comforts are called transitional objects, because they help children make the emotional transition from dependence to independence."
In other words, when your child is going through a significant change, or experiencing separation anxiety, as you start to teach them the value of independence, a lovey can give them needed reassurance. Sounds awesome to me. But as comforting and calming as a stuffed animal and/or lovey can be, it's best to wait to introduce a stuffed bedtime pal until after your little one celebrates their first birthday.
According to the AAP safe sleep guidelines, the safest place for an infant to sleep is on their backs and on a separate sleep surface designed for infants, like a crib, bassinet, or play yard. The AAP guidelines also recommend that the only thing in a baby's crib should be a fitted sheet. That means your baby shouldn't sleep with soft toys, like stuffed animals, that can cover your child's face. This recommendation isn't mean to keep you away from Target's baby aisle, but to reduce the risk of suffocation and/or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). After your baby turns 1-year-old, Healthykids.org states that it's fine for parents to introduce a lovey to their child at bedtime, as it can help them fall asleep. Which sounds totally awesome to this tired mom.
Once your child is old enough for a stuffed animal in their crib, you should select one with their child's safety in mind. The Baby Sleep Site suggests that you consult your healthcare provider before choosing a lovey for your child. If you pick a stuffed animal for your child to sleep with, the same site recommends you make sure it doesn't have buttons, hard eyes, or small detachable pieces, because they can be choking hazards. Kim West, LCSW-C of the The Sleep Lady website, agrees, and cautions parents to choose a small and soft transitional object for bedtime. As your child grows, large stuffed animals could be used as a step to help them climb out of their crib. Yikes.
All three sites agree that a stuffed animal might help your child get more sleep. However, to be on the safe side, parents should follow the aforementioned safe sleep guidelines and choose an appropriate toy for their child to snuggle while they sleep, and after they are 1-year-old.
As a mom of two, I get the urge to buy all the cute, fluffy, stuffed animal things to make your baby's sleep space Pinterest-perfect. Just hold off for a year, and your baby will be both safe and comfortable. That, my parenting friends, is the dream. #MomLife