I was told once that children who have “comfort items” need them because they didn’t feel secure. I was told that if a child co-slept, they would never need a comfort item. That idea has bothered me for years. You see, while I didn’t co-sleep the way we talk about now, I often slept with my mom, cradled in her arm if I was scared or sick or lonely. I didn’t think I felt insecure as a child. I remember being very young, sleeping in my bed at night and watching the lights of passing cars make their way across my bedroom wall. I had a comfort item, but I did not feel detached or insecurely attached to my mother. I felt great as a little kid. I just happened to adore a stuffed animal. Everybody, I’d like to introduce you to Miss Froggy:
Isn’t she just so cute? I mean, how could I not love her? She’s also far softer than the machine washed frog-fur would suggest. She’s a fantastic snuggler. I just got her back from my mom who had been guarding her for safe keeping, and when I saw her, I’ll admit, I hugged her. Then I smelled her… even though I knew she’d smell dusty. (And that I’m allergic to dust.) Then, I rubbed my face on hers and held her like a baby. I won’t lie, it felt wonderful. I felt incredibly relaxed. Oddly, the dust didn’t make my eyes itch.
I’ve heard of college kids taking their security blankets and stuffed animals to college and I sincerely couldn’t understand that. Until three days ago…. when Miss Froggy was back in my care.
Dr. Maria Kalpidou, a professor at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts tested the hypothesis that “attachment to comfort objects is based on the sensory processing characteristics of the individual.” She studied 52 undergraduate students. She had those with a childhood attachment item rate their level of attachment to it. The people that had a strong attachment to their item reported that they liked the texture of their comfort object and sleeping with it.
Dr. Kalpidou reported that childhood smell sensitivity and tactile threshold as well as whether or not the participants often sought out tactile stimulation as children could predict the intensity of their potential for object attachment. It suggested that children with an attachment object, such as a stuffed animal or a blankie, are the ones who would also seek out more sensory stimulation like soothing touch. This explains to my some people reconnect with their old, inanimate best friends upon entering adulthood. They ware able to use the object to sooth over stimulation (such as starting a brand new chapter in life at college) by replacing it with something soothing and familiar.
So, this means I can finally let go of that annoying idea suggested to me so many years ago. My friendship with Miss Froggy didn’t indicate a lack of parental bonding any more than the fact that I become over stimulated and anxious by loud noises and strobe lights does. It turns out, I’m just sensitive.
Are you a highly sensitive person? Did you have a comfort item? Do you have a picture of it? If so, post it on our Facebook wall, I’d love to see it!
P.S. This also explains why at five, for three years after my son was weaned, he would shove his hand into my left armpit to go to sleep… and maybe why he sleeps with one hand under his head and the other nestled into his own axilla.