Monday, February 19, 2007


'Doudou' is the French word naming what in English we would call a 'comfort object' or 'transitional object': a 'doudou' can be a special toy, a blankie, a pacifier, whatever it is that a child will not go to sleep without, or in which she invests a special emotional energy.

Here is Miss Baby with her doudou, a cotton diaper. Her love for this tri-fold, blue-serged, deeply prosaic rectangle has only blossomed recently, and is manifest in the delighted kicks and squirms and smiles she can't help but indulge in when this precious object is dangled near to her. She reaches for it, pulls it tight to herself. She chomps down hard on one corner of it, pulling just as hard in the other direction with little clenched fits, her nose wrinkling with the effort. She rubs it against her closed eyes, against her ears. She holds it by one side and shakes the bejesus out of it, just to watch it fly. If doudou is draped over the shoulder of The Dada, she gratefully settles herself into it, a brief quiet pause before she rubs her face violently against it, fortified again for fun and games.

It seems an unusual object for her to fasten her affections to, perhaps, and certainly my mother imagines this to be due to some lack of planning or provisioning on my part (surely, surely! she has nicer blankies or a nice soft bunny or maybe a soother to which she might be directed?) but we might easily enough have seen that this rapprochement has been long in developing. Way back in September, even, we can see the two lovers entwined. This is a love of opportunity, an opportunity provided by the sheer abundance both of cloth diapers and of breastmilk, and cemented by Miss Baby's inattentiveness at mealtimes. Something of a messy eater in her early infancy, Miss Baby's mealtimes were rendered all the more exciting by an extremely active letdown reflex on my part: the conjunction of these two trends led to very frequent washing of the nursing pillow cover, and of similarly frequent post-meal outfit changes for Miss Baby. Finally, we hit upon the strategy of 'setting the table' before putting her down to eat. That is, I wedged a cotton diaper under her chin to protect her outfit, and under my boob to protect the nursing pillow. (Cotton diapers were in plentiful supply, as we were signed up with a service. Let them wash it, I say!) As it happens, Miss Baby regularly fell asleep while breastfeeding, and the process of moving her from nursing rocker to crib often resulted in the diaper remaining tucked under her chin.

This habit has developed into a fondness, an honest-to-god preference for these bits of cloth over all others. You have to admit, it's pretty practical: keep enough of these around and they can go into and out of the wash without anybody panicking over the loss; they are interchangeable and thus easily replaced if lost; they are of a convenient size to tote around; and in a pinch, they are very absorbent. Still, I never really imagined tucking my baby lovingly into her crib for the night, making sure to provide her with ... a diaper to snuggle. But I've put this objection aside when I realized the implied compliment: what distinguishes this bit of rag from everything else is that it smells like The Mama.


Mad Hatter said...

Ahhh but does it have a name other than the generic "Doudou"? I love watching Miss M with her comfort object. It's elemental and beautiful.

Alpha DogMa said...

I think a nappy - a clean nappy - is fine 'lovey.' Now is it a particular nappy or will any of her nappies suffice? I think it is a fine idea.

My youngest son favoured bars of Pears soap. I am assuming that it was because it smelt like me, or that he's going to develop some form of OCD very soon.

He'd steal one from the tub or the sink, and walk around the house, rubbing it against his cheek and coo, "Zoop, Zoop, Zoop" over and over. We were willing to humour him until he started teething in earnest. Saliva plus soap plus baby cheeks made for a messy combo.

Beck said...

Not one - not ONE! - of my three kids had a comfort object, unless you count me. I don't know WHY my kids never did that, but it's always slightly baffled me.
Look at the bliss on Miss Baby's face! What a sweetie.

Jenifer G. said...

Blushing here...Rosebud still (yes, she is 3) has her pacifiers that we call plugs. She only uses them to sleep mind you and they stay in her room. Well, they did come to the ER with us (both trips), but that is another story.

She pops one in and lovingly rubs her nose with the other. If you give her one is more inclined to rub her nose than suck it. We have been warning (threatening) for weeks that they are going soon and she always, genuinely, asks; "what will I rub my nose with?"

I have tried to replace them with soft blankets, dolls, animals to no avail. We did try to take them away, but the anxiety was unbelievable. She did not eat or sleep for days (not exaggerating here) so we caved and gave them back. With Papoosie Girl she fussed for a day or so and it was over.

The way I see it, it is not really hurting her and the comfort it brings is immeasurable. You can see her body melt when she has them.

I love the diaper lovey, it is portable, useful, and cozy. I wish we had such a nice lovey!

So sweet.

Bloor West Mama said...

What a Isa's comfort object is a very soft little pig or as it has been named " La Chanchita" that she got as a gift. She loves the thing and when she sees it she grabs it, gives it a little squeeze and carries it around the house.

I worry that if we loose it one day she will have a huge meltdown...that is the good thing about the cotton diaper that Miss Baby likes, like you said easy to replace.

NotSoSage said...

I'm wracking my brain, here, trying to think of whether or not Mme L has a Doudou. I'm not sure that she does, or ever did.

I do think she noticed when, at one point, I stopped using the face cream I usually use and didn't have enough cash to buy another round for a few weeks.

But kudos to Miss Baby for choosing something so convenient...

Mimi said...

Sage -- if Mme L had a doudou, believe me, you would know. :-)

Jen -- that's so cute! what would I rub my nose with indeed! My sister had a plug, and my mom weaned her from it by getting her to put it in a drawer, with the proviso that she could come get it out of the drawer if she needd it. I guess when she's ready, she'll be ready.

Mad -- it's just called 'doudou' for now. But every thing else in the house has a name, which I might write about today.

nomotherearth said...

Like Beck - The Boy has no comfort object whatsoever. Unless you count his thumb. He's a sucker.

BTW - I think "doudou" is the perfect name for this particular lovey...:-)

Mimi said...

**smacks head**
How could I not know the word 'lovey'?
And AD: a bar of soap? That's hilarious.
Zoop! Zoop! indeed.

gingajoy said...

yes. you've definitely lucked out there. just make sure they stay in rotation so they don't get a special aura or smell or something, hah!

your description of how she plays with it is just gorgeous....

Her Bad Mother said...

It seems to me that doudous are always on the side of grotty and strange... usually, the grottier the better. This, at least, is true for WB, whose lovey is a disturbingly phallic stuffed ring toy holder with a years worth of snot and drool seeped into it (wash? ha! like I would risk it not being dry for bedtime, or risk removing the magic that makes it lovey...)

Mimi said...

We used to never wash the sling, for precisely the reason that it might not be dry the next time we needed it. Needing it usually occuring in 90 minutes cycles ... so it was usually a little peepee, a lot of drool, some wiped-up burf. Blech.