Ahead: What the evidence has to say about when babies can safely sleep with a lovey
Keeping your baby safe during sleep does NOT fall into the “you do you, mama” category.
SIDS is the leading cause of death in healthy, full-term infants.
And guess what?
It’s almost entirely preventable, just by following the ABCs of safe sleep.
Where (and with what) you allow your baby to sleep is a decision that should not be taken lightly.
Let’s see what the experts have to say about when your baby can sleep with a lovey.
Note: There’s a video in this post you need to see.
Table of Contents
- What is a lovey?
- When can your baby safely sleep with a lovey?
- Why aren’t loveys safe for infant sleep?
- What about all the “experts” who say otherwise?
- Unsafe advice about letting your baby sleep with a lovey
- What are the safe alternatives to a lovey?
- Is it safe to give your baby a lovey in his crib once he’s 12 months?
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
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What is a lovey?
A lovey (sometimes spelled lovie) is a transitional object, similar to a security blanket, that’s a hybrid between a blanket and a stuffed animal. Most loveys for babies consist of an animal head attached to a small blanket.
When can your baby safely sleep with a lovey?
At a minimum, your child should be 12 months old before you allow him to sleep with a lovey or any type of security blanket.
No exceptions. (You’ll see why in a moment).
The AAP‘s recommendation for infant sleep is simple:
“Nothing else should be in the crib except for the baby.”
They advise, “Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area.”
It’s safest to wait until your child is sleeping in a toddler bed, which is a non-enclosed space, to introduce a lovey for sleep. Toddler beds may be used starting at 15 months.
I’m going to show you an impactful video in just a moment.
Why aren’t lovies safe for infant sleep?
Lovies are a suffocation risk for babies.
“A large percentage of infants who die of SIDS are found with their head covered by bedding,” says the AAP.
The CPSC reports, “the presence of extra bedding such as pillows, blankets, and/or comforters, among others” is responsible for the vast majority of crib deaths.
Accordingly, there is no such thing as a baby security blanket that’s safe to give an infant to sleep with.
What about all the ‘experts’ who tell you that lovies are safe for sleep?
Even experienced medical professionals, can’t always tell ‘just by looking’ that certain behaviors are risky.
This is what makes SIDS so different from other matters of infant infant health and safety.
SIDS is a rare event, which means that its risk factors can only be understood by looking at large numbers of people in an unbiased way.
Much of what we consider “obvious” today about preventing SIDS was only discovered by painstakingly collecting and analyzing large amounts of data on incidences of SIDS.
(For example, the importance of placing a baby to sleep on his back is only a recent discovery—and one that was NOT evident just by observation.)
The point is this:
Any single individual’s experience — even a pediatrician’s — is not generalizable to risk levels at the population level.
When it comes to infant sleep, just because something appears to be safe, doesn’t mean that it is.
This is why it’s important to let scientific evidence (from large scale studies) dictate the potentially life or death decision about whether to let our infants sleep with security blankets.
Unsafe advice about letting your baby sleep with a lovey
It’s not that all the sleep consultants, Facebook groupies, and Instagram influencers are trying to give you unsafe advice…
All of these people are well meaning and just want to help get your baby to sleep.
The problem is that opinions can be harmful when they aren’t backed by scientific research.
I’m going to call your attention to some of the unscientific “rationale” given for ignoring the fundamental safety rule not to place soft objects in the crib.
To the best of my knowlege, there are no studies supporting the following claims. (If you know of one, please let me know.)
“Safe” baby security blankets? Where is the evidence?
- As long as the lovey is the ‘right’ size, it’s safe.
- As long as the fabric is ‘breathable’, it’s safe.
- As long as your baby knows how to roll, it’s safe.
- As long as you tuck part of the lovey under the crib mattress, it’s safe.
- As long as you tie it in a knot, it’s safe.
- As long as it can be grabbed by one hand, it’s safe.
- As long as it doesn’t have strings or ribbons, it’s safe.
- As long as it has no removable eyes or buttons, it’s safe.
- As long as you take it away from baby before you go to bed, it’s safe.
- As long as you have a baby monitor, it’s safe.
Show. Me. The. Evidence.
Even if the lovey meets all the “conditions” listed above, it’s not safe for sleep until your child is at least 12 months old.
A video is worth (more than) a thousand words
The video you’re about to see drives home the reasoning behind the aforementioned AAP guidelines.
Despite feeling ashamed, a very brave mother (and now safe sleep advocate) decided to share this footage publicly in hopes of educating fellow caregivers.
Click the image below. The video will open in a new tab.
(Feel free to fast forward to the :30 mark).
This baby boy is lucky to be alive and well today because his mother got to him in time.
What are the safe alternatives to a lovey?
A pacifier is the only safe lovey alternative for a child less than 12 months old to sleep with.
In fact, not only is it safe to give your baby a pacifier at bedtime; doing so actually reduces the risk of SIDS by up to 90%.
All you need to do to benefit from this protective factor is offer the pacifier at the start of each sleep period.
It’s not actually necessary for your baby to continue to suck on it—and there’s no need to replace the pacifier when it falls out of your baby’s mouth.
I know this sounds like pseudoscience…
How does this reduce the risk of SIDS?
We don’t actually know. All of the hypothesized mechanisms are unconfirmed.
The only thing scientists know with certainty is that there is indeed up to a 90% risk reduction of SIDS by offering a pacifier. Read the AAP’s study here.
Note: Pacifiers are safe to leave in the sleep space—but pacifier clips and Wubbanubs are not.
Is it safe to give your baby a lovey in his crib once he’s 12 months?
According to the AAP,
“Research has not shown us when it’s 100% safe to have these objects in the crib; however, most experts agree that these objects pose little risk to healthy babies after 12 months of age.”
That said, letting your baby sleep with a lovey depends on the make and model of your crib. Most crib manuals explicitly state that soft bedding should not be added to the sleep space.
This is why it’s safest to wait to introduce a lovey for sleep until your child is 15 months and sleeping in a toddler bed.
FAQs related to when baby can sleep with a lovey
Is there such thing as a breathable lovey?
If you’re looking for a safe lovey for your baby, you might have gotten tricked into the whole “breathable” marketing ploy.
“Breathable” is an unregulated term. There aren’t any standards by which to measure carbon dioxide retention levels.
Any company can claim that their products are breathable without doing any testing—or even defining the term, for that matter.
Further, there is no evidence that “breathable” baby products reduce the risk of SIDS.
If you want to buy a so-called breathable lovey, go for it. Just don’t let your baby sleep with it if he’s under 12 months old.
What about breathable stuffed animals?
The same thing goes for stuffed animals.
There is no such thing as a breathable stuffed animal that’s safe to leave in your baby’s crib if he’s under 12 months old.
When can baby sleep with a stuffed animal?
A baby can sleep with a small stuffed animal when he is at least 15 months old and sleeping in a toddler bed.
Are there any safe sleeping toys for babies?
There are no safe sleeping toys for babies under 12 months.
The single exception is a pacifier, which may or may not be considered a sleeping toy in your book.
Again, there is no such thing as a breathable lovey or a breathable stuffed animal that would be safe for an infant to sleep with in his crib.
Other than a pacifier, your baby’s crib should be completely empty to reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep-related death.
What makes a safe lovey for 6 month old?
The bad news is that there’s no such thing as a safe lovey for a 6-month old to sleep with.
The good news is that lovey baby toys are safe for supervised awake time.
The safest loveys for babies and toddlers are those that don’t have any small parts that could come off and become a choking hazard.
Look for a baby lovey that only has embroidered facial features, rather than buttons or plastic for eyes and noses.
Here are a few safe baby lovey blankets to consider for supervised awake time:
Again, until at least 12 months old, these are only safe under supervision while your baby is awake.
When can babies sleep with taggies?
First, what is a taggie?
A taggie is a small security blanket or stuffed animal with satin loops (“tags”) around the edges. Taggies, like loveys, are a hybrid between a toy and a cozy transitional object.
When is it safe for your baby to sleep with a taggie?
Not until he is at least 12 months old. Read your crib manual to see if it allows small blankets or toys. If it doesn’t, wait until your child is in a toddler bed to let him sleep with a taggie.
When can baby sleep with a security blanket?
First, what is a security blanket for baby?
A security object is a transitional object that brings comfort to a child during bedtime or times of anxiety.
What age is a security blanket safe?
A baby security blanket can be introduced for supervised AWAKE time at any age—however, loose bedding of any type, even a lovey baby blanket, should never be used for infant sleep.
When can baby sleep with a comfort blanket?
A baby can sleep with a security blanket when he is at least 15 months old and sleeping in a toddler bed.
Can baby sleep with a Wubbanub?
First, what is a Wubbanub?
A Wubbanub is a pacifier that’s attached to a small plush animal (that resembles a lovey).
It’s never safe for a baby to sleep with a Wubbanub.
This product is intended for infants 0-6 months old.
Since babies within this age range are at the highest risk for SIDS, it’s especially important that their sleep spaces be free from soft objects of any kind.
As discussed earlier, it’s only safe to leave a regular pacifier in the sleep space.
Pacifiers with stuffed animals, ribbons, or clips attached to them should not be used during sleep.
Can babies suffocate on a lovey blanket?
They absolutely can.
The AAP is crystal clear that having soft objects in the sleep space is correlated with an increased risk of SIDS.
My baby is sleeping with a lovey over his/her face... is this safe?
No. In fact, if your baby has a lovey in his/her crib right now, you should stop reading this and immediately go remove it.
As we’ve discussed in detail throughout the earlier sections of this article, lovies are a suffocation risk, no matter the type.
If you missed the video of a baby getting stuck with a lovey on his face, you can go back and watch that to see why.
Your baby’s crib or bassinet should be completely empty (besides a pacifier) to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Final thoughts on giving your baby a lovey for sleep
There’s an unbelievable amount of garbage on the internet about how to “safely” do all sorts of things that have
(a) killed babies;
(b) been studied or tested and shown to increase the risk of SIDS; or
Just because a nurse and a pediatrician’s wife (I think you know who I’m referring to) thinks it’s safe to give your baby a lovey for sleep, doesn’t mean it is.
As confusing and counterintuitive as safe sleep may be, it’s a serious risk to follow any advice that’s inconsistent with the findings of large-scale scientific studies.
The bottom line is that baby lovey blankets are fine for supervised awake time, but are a serious safety risk when placed in a baby’s crib or bassinet for sleep.
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