Is This Normal?: I still sleep with my baby blanket
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Dear Is This Normal?,
I’m in my late twenties and I still sleep with the same blanket I’ve had since I was born. Every year, I say that I’m going to throw it away, but I never do because I honestly love having it around. I don’t need it to sleep, but I definitely feel cozier when I have it, especially on nights where I’m feeling stressed or anxious. Is this normal???
— XO, Grown-Up Baby
Dear, Grown-Up Baby,
Ah, sleeping with one’s baby blanket. It’s a subject I’m entirely well-versed in, because, like you, I’m also in my late 20s and unapologetically still sleep with this precious childhood relic. And yes, I think it’s super normal.
That said, my blanket arguably should have said its goodbyes many moons ago. It’s not pretty; what was once white is now a murky grey, the rainbow hearts have faded in multi-colored blobs and the stuffing is collecting at the corners. It’s essentially a transparent piece of fabric filled with awkward lumps, and I’m the only person in the world who loves it.
I’ve had chances to say goodbye. On my 18th birthday, I was traveling overnight with my high school jazz choir, and accidentally left the blanket in a hotel room. That moment could have been deeply symbolic: “I left my baby blanket in a hotel room on my 18th birthday! Farewell childhood, and hello to the new adult version of me!” But that’s not what happened.
Instead, I bought a pack of cigarettes and called the hotel to have them ship the blanket back to me. Express.
You and I aren’t the only ones still attached to these decaying but beloved pieces of fabric. As I research for this article, I posted in two Facebook groups asking if anyone else sleeps with blankets or stuffed animals, and received over 50 comments from people who empathized by sharing their comfort objects. There was Gravey the Dog, Dolleek the doll, and a myriad of blankets that still provide solace to women of all different ages.
Donald Winnicot, a famous child psychologist in the 1950s, was the first to label these beloved childhood possessions, calling them “transitional objects.” The idea is that whether it’s a stuffed moose or a baby blanket, these objects help a child transfer their focus, comfort, and affections from their caregiver onto the object. It’s one of the first steps toward independence, as these objects help teach youngins to self-sooth. When we feel afraid of the dark, start worrying about monsters under the bed, or freak because our parents just left us alone in a room, it can be incredibly comforting to have something physical to latch onto—sort of like a stress ball.
But what if you’re carrying these transitional objects into adulthood? According to the professionals, that’s also more than okay.
“It’s totally normal to hold onto relics from our childhood,” says Lindsey Cooper, an associate marriage and family therapist. “We create bonds with these comfort objects, so of course, we want to keep them. Especially in times of change or challenges, we lean towards those things that make us feel good….A warm bath, hot cup of tea, Netflix binge curled up in bed, or our childhood relics with all the memories they bring.”
Cooper’s got a point. It’s not like our need for comfort disappears as soon as we move out of our parents’ house. Darkness, monsters, and isolation take on different forms in adulthood.
They show up as break-ups, moving to a new city, shitty presidents, f*ckboys, unemployment, or the death of a loved one. The amount of transitions a person undergoes in their twenties is arguably pretty intense—the majority of us are embracing what it truly means to be independent, and therefore, still in a place of transition. In the last 10 years, I’ve lived in four different states, moved across the country, battled the relapse of an eating disorder, endured three heart-wrenching breakups, started several new jobs, and struggled with mental illness. In these moments, my blanket does serve as a small piece of comfort, a physical reminder that everything’s okay. It’s helping me transition from a place of darkness into one of light.
So why the shame or embarrassment over carrying around these beloved childhood artifacts? My guess is that we’re afraid to appear weak. Carrying around a baby blanket (and having one constantly under the pillow in your bedroom) is a physical sign that you still need a bit of comfort every now and then. But Grown-Up Baby, I don’t think being vulnerable is anything you need to be ashamed of. In fact, I think it’s really quite brave.
There is a common thread between you, myself, and the woman who responded to my Facebook post: we admit that every now and then, we need a little bit of comfort. Doesn’t everyone? You reaching for your baby blanket is no different than someone putting on a rerun of Gilmore Girls or making a batch of cookies. In fact, it’s arguably a much healthier coping mechanism than something like sex, drugs, or alcohol. So applaud yourself for having a wholesome way of handling adulthood’s monsters. There’s nothing immature needing comfort.