Baby Development: When Attachment Ends

My third child had the remarkable distinction of being attached to not one, not two, but three blankets. These baby items were appropriately, if not creatively, named blue blankie, yellow blankie, and green blankie, and he loved them all. Regardless of where he went, the blankets were always in tow. It was cute at first. After all, he was the baby of the family, and everyone likes to dote over the youngest child. But as he passed from baby to toddler, his dependence on the blankets grew. I wondered if transitioning him from an item he'd outgrown would be three times more difficult when it was time to leave this baby development stage in the dust.

As time went on, I began to worry that he'd take the blankets on his first date. I knew he wouldn't, of course, but when you're a parent in the throes of weaning your child from his favorite baby item, you seriously begin to wonder. The blankets accompanied us to the playground and the supermarket -- even his sister's soccer games. As time went on, they got dirty, torn, and worn. 

Our pediatrician assured us that our son wasn't the first child on the planet to grow overly attached to a security object. In fact, it's a normal stage of baby development that helps provide the child with a sense of security, and there's no reason to force him out of his comfort zone. These things usually fix themselves, she said. She was right.

Preschool -- and the peer pressure that goes along with it -- played a major role in weaning our son off the blankets. It doesn't take any child long to figure out that the other kids aren't walking into preschool with three blankets in tow. In addition to that, his father and I tried our best not to fuss about the blankets. Yes, they were annoying, but we tried to overlook them. Logic told us that if these baby items were acting as a form of security, then telling him not to use them might only create more anxiety, and in turn, increase the dependency. We chose to let the social pressures of preschool work their magic instead.

During the time when our son and his blankets were inseparable, these tips helped us cope:

  • Don't insist that your child give up his security attachment too soon. It only creates more anxiety.
  • Set limits when necessary, but do it gently. For instance, rather than dragging the blankets through a dirty playground, we encouraged our son to leave them in a safe place while he played.  
  • Find other ways to keep your child's hands busy and occupied, like building blocks, drawing, or solving a floor puzzle.
  • Give plenty of hugs while your child is learning to outgrow the dependency.

Like many parents, we worried that our son's blankets would be with him forever. Now we know that blue, yellow, and green blankies were simply another stepping stone in his ongoing quest for independence.