A soft option: help me make it through the night

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2012, 12:00am


My husband and I have lined up the competitors, and we're marking them out of 10.

'Too big,' my hubby says.

'Too ugly,' I say.

'How about this one? It's medium-sized and very soft,' he offers, rubbing a blue corduroy elephant against his face.

We're testing five teddies and two snuggly blankets. It's The X-Factor ... for soft toys.

Nearly every child I have known has, at some point, had a comforter to help them sleep. When I was young, mine was a blanket. One of my brothers had a soft rabbit. The other had a square of towelling.

Sleep is a precious thing to new parents and we go to great lengths to try to find a way to secure it.

A comforter will help your little one fall asleep and get back to sleep without you if they wake up in the night. The soft presence next to them soothes them. The thought of your child feeling secure when they sleep is comforting, too. A win-win situation one might say.

I got the idea from the book Save Our Sleep by Irish baby whisperer Tizzie Hall. I am dubious of anyone who calls themselves a whisperer, be it dog whisperer, horse whisperer, guinea pig whisperer. However, a friend, whose child is a sound sleeper, sang such high praise of Hall's book that I laid my suspicions aside and read it. And her ideas seemed pretty sensible.

Hall suggests introducing a comforter early on because all babies use something to help them get to sleep. So, far better you choose it so that: a) you know what it is, and: b) you can pick something vaguely tasteful. (Do you want your child cuddling a tatty old puke-covered muslin for years?)

So when to introduce it? Advice on safe sleeping, which is based on studies about Sids (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), tells you not to put anything in a cot until a child is at least six months old. So no cot bumpers, teddies or blankets.

However, many mums I know let their child sleep with a soft toy from a much younger age. My sister-in-law has two great sleepers, both of whom cuddled teddies from a very young age.

At five months, my little boy, Tom, can roll both ways and holds his head up well. This means the risk of suffocation is minimised, he'll just move his head or roll away. So, we decide to give it a whirl.

After an hour's debate, we vote for a cute, fluffy dog. In an uninspired moment, we name it Doggy-dog. I order two spare because I am warned that once a child forms an attachment to a comforter they can't sleep without it.

I put Doggy-dog in Tom's cot and wait eagerly. It pains me to say that the mutt has been there untouched and unloved for two weeks.

Reluctantly, I try a square of soft blue fabric with a rabbit sewn on to the end, a little more effeminate than the dog but worth a try. As soon as it goes in the cot, Tom grabs the cloth and won't let go. From that moment on, whenever I go in to check on him, he's snuggled up with the blue comforter.

So, where does this leave us? Two spare dogs and a mad rush to source some back-up rabbit squares.

Soft fluffy dog, anyone?