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It’s science: Your child’s favorite lovey (or blanket) fosters independence

Your child's "lovey" is way more than just a toy or a blanket—in fact, a lovey gives your little one emotional strength to grow and adapt.

transition objects and security blankets encourage independence
Bunnies by the Bay

Halfway home and the sad little cry from the back seat was loud and clear, "Mama! My 'draff!"

I knew I had to turn around. My little one's messy and mangled stuffed giraffe was worth the drive back. To go without this tattered token of security would mean tearful drop offs, sleepless afternoons and prolonged evenings spent offering various substitutions—other stuffies and blankets, even books—that could not replace this one chosen and cherished random recipient of my kid's devotion. Having their lovey in their arms was worth every effort of the retrieval.

The blankets, bears and soft items children adopt and carry with them are what psychologists call transition objects. Chosen by your child to provide comfort and predictability, transitional objects represent your child's feelings for and experience of *you*. But don't worry, mama, your child's transition object is not a replacement for you, but instead a positive indication of your healthy maternal–child bond that enables growth and development—and helps them become more independent.


Your child's ability to separate from you begins by first clinging to you, and then to a rendition of you that provides the continuity of soothing, comfort and closeness you've given them. Your child uses their transition object to preserve and internalize this sense of security so they can more easily make the emotional transition from dependence on you to independence from you.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a transition object can be an important source of emotional support for your child.

Not only does a transition object communicate your affection when you are not present, it can also serve as a foundation for emotional regulation, acting as an attachment figure that empowers your child with a sense of comfort and security to cope with your absence. From day care goodbyes to bedtime goodnights, in these moments a soft lovey like a blanket or bear can be faithful companions, fortifying your child against the short-term separation anxiety that must occur to meet their long-term need for more independence.

By offering security and fostering independence, a transition object helps your child move through different stages in life.

Transitional objects have the capacity to give your child the reassurance they need and rely on to feel grounded enough to explore. Meeting their short-term need to cope with separation is key in tackling the long term need to move toward autonomy. Ethnologist and founding father of psychoanalytic anthropology, Dr. Géza Roheim believed that with a sense of security, children feel safe enough to take the small risks that help them feel confident and unafraid to take larger risks as they explore and grow.

Although most kids keep their transition object through their preschool years, it's completely normal if your child shows no sign of giving it up beyond then.

In a study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers found that about half the children studied formed an attachment to an object in infancy, and then about half of those kids kept it until age 9. Other studies indicate that children who were emotionally attached to a transition object appeared to mature and adjust like other children.

But if your child doesn't seem to show a preference for a particular stuffie, lovey or blanket, that's nothing to be concerned about. Research has also demonstrated that not having a transition object has no significant bearing on behavioral problems in adolescence.

Bottom Line: There's a reason why your child is so fiercely attached to their lovey—this comfort object stands in for you, mama, the first and most important relationship that they have throughout their lives.

[Editor's note: According to AAP, for safe sleep, if your child is under 12 months of age, blankets should stay out of the crib—whether your baby is playing or napping. Blankets can increase the risk of smothering, strangulation, suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The only thing that should be in the crib at night is your child. But if your child must have one when it is time to sleep, according to Dr. Harvey Karp, for the first 12 months, the only safe lovey is a pacifier and white noise—an "auditory lovey."]

We've curated the softest, sweetest loveys in the Motherly Shop. Check out some of our favorites:

Bunnies by the Bay Piper sandpiper

Bunnies by the Bay Piper sandpiper

Teddy bears are great and all, but this charming little guy with his spindly legs and fuzzy blue fur makes a very fun companion.

$18

Bunnies by the Bay wee nibble bunny

Bunnies by the Bay wee nibble bunny

Heirloom quality and buttery-soft, this classic bunny is perfectly sized to be tucked under your little one's arm and taken along for a lifetime of adventures.

$17

Mary Meyer putty fawn lovey

Mary Meyer putty fawn lovey

With an easy-to-grab under-stuffed body and luxe minky fabric, this adorable fawn is ideal for little hands. Even better? It's totally machine-washable.

$19

Mary Meyer putty elephant character blanket

Mary Meyer putty elephant character blanket

With a silky lining and deliciously soft fur, this blanket-style lovey is as soothing as it is sweet.

$19

Mary Meyer Hammie the pig

Mary Meyer hammie the pig

We love the high-quality loveys from Mary Meyer whose scraggly fur and hand-embroidered details make them feel extra special. Hammie the pig, with their jaunty handkerchief and kissable little face is no exception.

$25

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Ara Katz/Seed

We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

Seed Daily Synbiotic

Seed

Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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