In a recent conversation with a friend, we discussed things that bring us comfort as adults. The smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, newly cut grass, a summer rain, and then she said, ‘Do you sleep with a stuffed animal or a baby blanket? Don’t tell anyone, but I have a stuffed animal I’ve had since high school that I sleep with every night. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sleep with a stuffed animal.’ The conversation got real when I admitted that yes, I do sleep with a baby blanket. So, are my friend and I weird and in need of therapy with our stuffed animal and blanket in tow every night? I am so glad you asked!
We’re in Good Company
In a 2017 survey, out of 2,000 plus adults, 40% of American adults admit to sleeping with a stuffed animal or baby blanket. Reading this statistic, I quickly canceled my appointment with my psychiatrist. Since it isn’t that odd of a habit, what purpose do these familiar items play in our adult lives?
Upon a bit of research, I found that mental health professionals call items like a favorite teddy bear or blanket, ‘transitional objects,’ because they help children make the emotional transition from dependence to independence. Not sure what that says about me and my friend…we may still need therapy. For me, personally, as a little girl, I slept with a blankie every night and it traveled with me every day. Both of my parents worked and my mom would take me to my grandparents’ house every morning at 7am. She would place my blankie over her shoulder and pick me up, carrying me inside, gently placing me on the couch. The blanket smelled like my mom and I now know I missed her so much that the blankie gave me comfort while she was at work. My blankie helped me to feel close to her. I also remember times when I was scared during a thunderstorm or in need of a nap, the blanket would soothe me. But that was as a child, what about as an adult?
Don’t Be Embarrassed
While many adults grow past needing items of comfort, there are times in life, during extreme stress or emotional despair, that it is considered quite normal for an adult to have a childhood source of self-soothing like a stuffed animal or blanket. If you’ve come to this point in my column and you are thinking, ‘Girl, you need some help with your coping mechanisms,’ it’s healthier finding comfort in a blanket than in alcohol or drugs…at least that is what experts say. But there are times when your emotional support item may need to be retired.
If It Becomes a Relationship Issue
It kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, ‘If you’re looking to your baby blanket for support instead of your partner, you might have an issue.’ If you are finding comfort in an object rather than in your partner, that is a symptom of a larger intimacy issue.
You Can’t Sleep Without It
If you actually believe that you can’t fall asleep without your teddy bear or blankie, you may have a problem. Basically, if you are overly reliant on the object as an adult, the item is counterproductive to why you latched onto it as a child. An example is your teddy bear was to help you with your coping and autonomy as a child, but if you can’t sleep or rest without it as an adult, it may have too much importance.
Breaking Up with Teddy
If you decide you need to break up with your teddy or blankie, the good news is we all are able to fall asleep naturally, you just may need to retrain yourself. Try sleeping on your own without your comfort item once in a while to prove you can do it, perhaps weaning yourself away from it all together. When it comes to me and my friend, we aren’t quitters, so we’ll continue to snuggle with our teddy and blankie…you do you and I’ll do me!