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When Marcella Johnson’s son passed away shortly after childbirth, twenty years ago, she was overcome with a host of emotions that she didn’t know how to control. From grief to anger to Takotsubo (also known as “broken heart syndrome”), her son’s sudden death caused Johnson to desperately crave feelings of familiarity and comfort.
“[My son’s death] caused my heart to feel the exact pains of suffering a heart attack,” Johnson recalls, “and my arms were in pain as they were literally aching to hold my baby.”
Doctors were unable to prescribe anything for her seemingly disparate symptoms and none of the home or herbal remedies she tried seemed to help either. It wasn’t until she went to her son’s gravesite and picked up a terra cotta pot full of flowers — that felt like the same weight as her baby, she explains — that the aching finally began to subside.
Johnson’s experience led her down a rabbit hole of both online theories and personal stories, that eventually landed on a common theme: “I found that it can be a common occurrence for mothers who lose a child to seek weighted objects to hold to provide comfort,” Johnson says, citing women who reach for everything from a “five-pound sack of flour, to a heavy pillow or even a pineapple to hold.”
Her newfound knowledge, coupled with her own experience, led her to create the “Comfort Cub,” a weighted teddy bear designed to help ease anxiety and bring a sense of peace to people during times of tragedy or uncertainty.
“There is science behind holding a weighted object,” Johnson explains, about how the Comfort Cub works. “When you hold the cub against your chest, it elicits the same physical response as getting a hug. Your brain releases the happy hormones of dopamine and Serotonin which causes your heart rate to decrease, your breathing to slow down, and gives your body an overall feeling of calm and peace. The teddy bear is also a universal symbol of love and comfort,” she says. “I think seeing a teddy bear reminds people of the innocence of childhood and makes you feel warm inside.”
Doctors and therapists have been using weighted teddy bears for years to help patients deal with grief and loss, and the stuffed toys have even been introduced to kids with ADHD and autism, as a form of sensory stimulation. But as cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, Johnson says weighted teddy bears like hers have taken off in popularity, as people search for easy ways to cope with feelings of anxiousness during an unpredictable time.
Johnson, whose company has pledged to give away 1,000 stuffed toys to patients in hospital across the country, says the best weighted teddy bears can also help people “feel safe and not alone,” especially as social distancing limits our amount of human contact. Interestingly, Johnson says her company has also been receiving calls from hospitals asking for Comfort Cubs for their first responders, doctors and medical staff too.
And while sales of weighted blankets have also increased in recent weeks, Johnson says there’s a unique benefit to having a weighted teddy instead. “Everyone loves a weighted blanket at night or a pet to hold onto during times of stress,” she says. “But a weighted blanket is awkward to move around and a pet isn’t always welcome everywhere. A weighted teddy bear can go with you wherever you are.”
1. The Comfort Cub
Johnson’s original “Comfort Cub” is a plush teddy bear that weighs four pounds. Personalize your purchase with a custom card and note to your recipient.
2. Intelex Warmies Marshmallow Bear
This super plush teddy bear weighs just under two pounds and is filled with all-natural grain and dried lavender for a firm yet comforting feeling. The entire toy is microwavable, say, if you want a warm companion to hold onto before bed, or to soothe an upset stomach. Intelex says the toy is also great for reducing anxiety and helping with colic relief.
This therapeutic toy is designed for all ages and has been designed to meet all U.S. safety standards for stuffed animal manufacturing. Pick up this “marshmallow bear” or choose from more than a dozen other animals.
3. Wild Baby Weighted Plush Pal
This 10-inch teddy bear is filled with natural clay micro-beads for weight, and dried lavender for aromatherapy. Unzip the teddy bear to find a removable “therapy pack” that you can heat in the microwave (to use the stuffed toy as a heat pad) or put in the freezer (for cold therapy). The beads are non-toxic; the teddy bear weighs less than a pound — or about the same as a small bean bag.
4. Fun & Function Weighted Teddy Bear
Measuring 16 inches tall and weighing three pounds, this weighted teddy bear was specifically created to help those with ADHD, autism or SID (sensory integration disorder). It’s also been selling out over the past few weeks, as people look for a way to stay calm while riding out the quarantine indoors.
Fun & Function Weighted Teddy Bear, $44, available at Amazon (sold out on Amazon? Find it for $44 at Walmart here)
5. Hugo Warmkins Original 18″ Weighted Sensory Plush
This huggable, heatable stuffed toy could help to ease stress, anxiety and loneliness. Weighing approximately three pounds, the 18-inch plush comes with a removable insert that can be warmed up or chilled in the fridge for various therapeutic benefits. It’s also been designed with longer arms that wrap around you for a more tactile connection.
Need to keep calm on the go? This set comes with straps that let you easily carry the weighted toy with you as a backpack when traveling.
6. SENSORY4U Weighted Panda Lap Blanket Pad
This panda plush combines the benefits of a weighted blanket with a weighted teddy bear. Great for stress relief, calming nerves and to help you fall asleep (the weight prevents you from shuffling in bed), the pad measures 17 x 22 inches and weighs four pounds. Remove the interior pouch (filled with glass beads) to decrease the weight. You can also microwave the pouch to create a soothing heat pad with the blanket.