Stuffed animals are cute and cuddly, and many babies love to snuggle with them. But when is it safe for a baby to sleep with a stuffed animal? And what are the benefits and risks of doing so? In this article, we will answer these questions and provide some tips on how to choose and use stuffed animals for your baby’s sleep.
The risks of sleeping with stuffed animals
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents keep their babies’ cribs free of anything that might block their breathing, such as blankets, pillows, quilts, comforters, and stuffed animals, for at least the first 12 months. This is because these objects can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), suffocation, and strangulation.
SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old, usually during sleep. The exact causes of SIDS are unknown, but some factors that may increase the risk include sleeping on the stomach or side, overheating, exposure to tobacco smoke, and sleeping on soft or loose bedding.
Suffocation and strangulation are also serious threats to a baby’s life. Suffocation occurs when something blocks the baby’s airway and prevents them from breathing. Strangulation occurs when something wraps around the baby’s neck and cuts off the blood flow to the brain. Both can happen if a baby gets tangled in a blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal while sleeping.
Therefore, it is important to keep your baby’s crib clear of any soft objects that could pose a danger to their breathing or circulation. Put your baby in their crib, bassinet, or play yard with no loose bedding – just a tight-fitting sheet. (It’s okay to put a thin, tight-fitting mattress pad under the sheet to protect against diaper leaks, too.)
The benefits of sleeping with stuffed animals
After 12 months, it’s okay for your baby to bring a special toy or blanket to bed for comfort12. It’s still safest to keep their crib relatively empty – so don’t give your child a pillow until they’ve transitioned from the crib to a bed1.
Stuffed animals can be beneficial for your baby’s emotional development and sleep quality. They can provide a sense of security and familiarity, especially when your baby experiences separation anxiety or faces new situations12. They can also help your baby soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up during the night5.
Many babies become attached to a particular object, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, between 8 and 12 months old. This is called a transitional object or a lovey. A transitional object is something that your baby associates with you and uses to comfort themselves when you are not around. Having a transitional object can help your baby cope with stress and feel more independent.
How to choose and use stuffed animals for your baby’s sleep
If you decide to let your baby sleep with a stuffed animal, here are some tips on how to choose and use them safely:
Choose a stuffed animal that is soft, lightweight, breathable, and easy to wash. Avoid any that have buttons, beads, ribbons, strings, or other small parts that could come off and pose a choking hazard.
Introduce the stuffed animal to your baby during the day first. Let them play with it and get familiar with it before giving it to them at night. You can also cuddle with it yourself or put it near your skin so that it smells like you.
Limit the number of stuffed animals in your baby’s crib. One or two is enough. Too many can clutter the crib and make it harder for your baby to move around or find their favorite one.
Wash the stuffed animal regularly to keep it clean and free of dust mites, mold, or bacteria. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to wash and dry it properly.
Replace the stuffed animal if it gets worn out or damaged. Check it regularly for any signs of wear and tear, such as holes, loose threads, or missing parts. If you notice any problems, discard it or repair it immediately.
Respect your baby’s preference and attachment. Don’t force your baby to sleep with a stuffed animal if they don’t want to or don’t need to. Likewise, don’t take away their favorite stuffed animal if they are attached to it. Let your baby decide when they are ready to give it up or switch to another one.
If your baby is older than 12 months, then they can safely use a plush play Recommended 10 Best Stuffed Animals for Babies.
Can I give my baby a stuffed animal before 12 months old?
No, it is not recommended to give your baby a stuffed animal before 12 months old, as it can increase the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation. If your baby needs another layer for warmth, use a swaddle or sleep sack instead. If your baby needs something to suck on, give them a pacifier, but don’t attach it to their clothing or the stuffed animal12.
What if my baby insists on taking their stuffed animal to bed with them and gets upset when I take it away?
If your baby is younger than 12 months old, you should not let them sleep with a stuffed animal, even if they get upset. Try to distract them with another toy or activity, or comfort them with your voice or touch. You can also include the stuffed animal in your bedtime routine, such as reading a story or singing a lullaby with it, but take it away before putting your baby in their crib12.
What if my baby has allergies or asthma? Can they still sleep with a stuffed animal?
Do you need to clean the stuffed animals used by baby frequently?
Yes, if your child uses plush toys, make sure that the plush toys are kept clean, but please note that different materials plush toys need different cleaning methods. If you need to know the specific cleaning methods, you can check out the article: How to clean Stuffed Animals.
Stuffed animals can be a great source of comfort and companionship for your baby, but they can also pose some risks if used too early or improperly. To keep your baby safe and happy, follow the AAP’s guidelines on when and how to introduce and use stuffed animals for your baby’s sleep. Remember that every baby is different, and you know your baby best. If you have any doubts or concerns, talk to your doctor or other qualified experts. Sweet dreams!