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Thumbs Up, Down and Out (of the Mouth)

July 24, 2011

I used to think I had it made. My Sophie was one of those good babies who always knew how to calm herself down. All Sophie needed to do was find her beloved little thumb and start sucking. And then magically, she’d be fine. It’s as if the thumb had special healing and calming powers that helped her overcome all obstacles. How lucky was I?! A kid who calmed herself.  Little did I know that four years later I’d be wondering how on earth I’d break this thumb-sucking habit.

The reality of Little Miss Thumb-sucker hit me last week during Sophie’s semi-annual trip to the dentist. After a terrific cleaning where they raved about her excellent brushing habits, we ventured in to see the dentist for the actual exam. And then came the words I knew we would hear eventually — we need to work on curbing Sophie’s thumb-sucking habit.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Bryan sucked his thumb until he was about 7-years-old. He tells me his parents resorted to one of those mouth devices to get him to stop. (Truth be told, I’m not sure if he’s ever recovered from the ordeal.)

With Sophie, it’s slightly different. The good news is that she only sucks the thumb when she has her trusty blankie with her. She’s not a kid who sucks constantly all day long at school and at the dinner table. Her sucking is confined more to being tired, scared, or needing to relax. And if blankie is not there, neither is the thumb-sucking.

You are probably thinking the solution is easy — just remove the blankie. And yes, I could do that. But I will be honest — I’m not comfortable with removing her sole security object from her at such a young age. That almost goes up there with childhood trauma, in my opinion. I wonder, if our blankies, pacifiers and comfort items were not ripped from us at an early age, would we be more self confident now? Would we have annoying oral habits as adults (like my fingernail biting I just can’t quit)?

I think Sophie’s been a thumb-sucker since in the the womb. In this photo – taken of her just a few hours after birth – there’s her little thumb in her mouth.

When she was an infant, the only way she would sleep well was on her tummy. Mainly because when on her tummy, she could get the thumb into her mouth since her hand was lying flat next to her.

As she grew older, the thumb-sucking occurred only with the blankie (as you can see from this picture taken last month). While I do think it’s cute and reminds me of Linus from the Peanuts gang, I know it eventually needs to stop.

So help me fellow parents and former (or current) thumb-suckers!

What’s your take on all this? Does your kid suck their thumb? How did you stop it? Or did you? Any and all advice is welcome.  We’re all in this together, so hopefully I can learn from your stories (successes or failures). What should I do about my little Thumb-alina?

42 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2011 10:21 pm

    Beautiful pictures Leah! What I would do is absolutely nothing. If you draw any attention to this whatsoever she will automatically want to do it. As soon as she goes to school other kids will say something and she will soon stop except for when she is really upset. I used to stick my thumb in my mouth and use my index finger to curl around my nose none stop. I’m 54, but once in a while if I’m really upset, I am so tempted to revert to my childhood habit! In the overall scheme of things it’s a blip she’ll outgrow. Good luck! Elizabeth.

    • July 26, 2011 10:50 pm

      Thank you so much! This is kind of what I was already suspecting.

  2. July 25, 2011 4:26 am

    Popped in from SITS! My MIL had this problem with my husband!

  3. July 25, 2011 5:31 am

    She is absolutely adorable, what a sweetie pie! Neither of my kids sucked their thumbs so I can’t help you with personal experience in that department, but I’m so glad you are letting her keep her blankie!

    • July 26, 2011 11:02 pm

      I still have my childhood blankie. I can’t imagine taking hers away.

  4. July 25, 2011 6:36 am

    Your Sophie is adorable. I don’t have any suggestions. You know your daughter better than anyone, so I think you’ll make the best choice as to how to handle it. Best of luck. 🙂

    • July 26, 2011 11:02 pm

      That in itself is a great suggestion. Thanks!

  5. July 25, 2011 6:53 am

    Leah-

    The pics are adorable! And apart from a little orthodontia down the road, what’s the harm? None of my kiddos sucked their thumbs & still needed braces! Unless it’s causing psychological drama with other kids, which it isn’t, and she may or may not end up needing braces down the road anyway, I just can’t see what the big deal is?

    I say go with your gut 🙂
    -Denise

    • July 26, 2011 11:02 pm

      Thanks, that’s what I think too! I’m sure she’ll need braces anyway. I did and I was not a thumb-sucker.

  6. July 25, 2011 7:32 am

    Unfortunately I can’t give you any good advice. None of my children would suck their thumbs. My first did have a pacifier and the only way we got rid of that was to move. How? Well, my husband decided it was time and he hid it from us and told us it got lost in the move. So I didn’t buy a new one and within a few days we were done. I wouldn’t suggest you lose a thumb though LOL! I’ve always heard about the yucky stuff they put on the thumb to make it taste bad.

    • July 26, 2011 11:01 pm

      Yes, harder to ditch the thumb than pacifier. Thumbs are great when their babies because they can comfort themselves. But I think the pacifier is easier to break. Oh well. It’s always something! Thanks for commenting!

  7. July 25, 2011 8:19 am

    So adorable. How can you deny her?

    My daughter sucked her two middle fingers from a baby to about the age of two or so. This was her preference over the pacifier. We would discourage her by telling her to pull it out and taking it out but she just loved those fingers. I was a sucker for all things cute and really, wore out with trying after only a few times but I think her dad would pop her hands. That wasn’t really effective since he traveled and there I was to keep the habit going. But you know, she outgrew it on her own, the same way she did with not sleeping with me anymore. Maybe it was luck, I don’t know.

    • July 26, 2011 11:00 pm

      It’s true, I can’t deny her! Glad to hear she outgrew the habit as well as sleeping with you. That’s the next one I need to conquer or get her to outgrow!

  8. July 25, 2011 9:13 am

    I didn’t stop my daughter Ashley’s thimb sucking and it pushed her front teeth out of alignment. She sucked her thumb (when sleeping) and I couldn’t stop her. So good luck, Leah, but I haven’t got any good advice there, except give it your all or you’ll be paying for braces.
    I tried to throw her blankie away once. It had become old and really tattered and was an embarrassment, frankly. An hour later I crawled into a filthy dumpster, desperate to stop the crying, and then hand washed the blankie and dried it before finding any peace. She still remembers that and we sometimes laugh about it (now).

    • July 26, 2011 10:59 pm

      That is a great story. Although I’m sure at the time you didn’t feel that great in the dumpster!

  9. July 25, 2011 9:19 am

    Oh, Sophie is SO cute! I love her pictures. I wish I had advice for you – but I don’t.

    • July 26, 2011 10:59 pm

      That’s okay. Always nice to hear your lovely comments.

  10. July 25, 2011 10:02 am

    I don’t have much experience here, Leah, but I think it’s great that you’re not taking away her blankie/thumb sucking. I think it should be her decision to put it away–which she will do in her own time. Until then, enjoy your precious Thumb-alina!

    • July 26, 2011 10:58 pm

      Thanks, Jolina! I agree with you. Nice to see so many supportive comments.

  11. July 25, 2011 10:48 am

    Leah – we should talk! My Caitlin was Sophie! Years later, teeth removed, braces, etc… and thousands and thousands of dollars, she is wearing a model’s smile. The before and after pictures are amazing, but darn it was an expensive journey. In order to get my Caitlin to stop, we had to insert one of those devices that prevent the thumb from making contact with the month. Good luck with this one..

    • July 26, 2011 10:58 pm

      Wow, our girls have much in common! I hope she will stop on her own without needing the device. But interestingly, I was not a thumb-sucker and still needed major oral surgeries and braces for many years. Her teeth spacing is similar to mine (even before the thumb sucking). So I’m sure braces are in her future no mater what.

  12. July 25, 2011 6:21 pm

    Your daughter is beautiful! But I don’t have any advice for you, none of my kids had this problem, but I will tell what Max’s pediatrician told me once in regards to Max being in diapers at the age of 2. He said to me not to worry, because by the time Max will be ready to get married he will be out of diapers for sure. He was an old, old doctor, who has seen many, many babies and after speaking to him, I relaxed and let life take it course. I’m sure Sophie will be fine.

    • July 26, 2011 10:57 pm

      I love that advice! And he’s right. They won’t be in diapers or sucking their thumbs forever.

  13. July 25, 2011 7:25 pm

    Leah,
    Relax, she’ll probably outgrow it when she’s around other kids. Peer pressure can be a great thing sometime. Our eldest son and our daughter sucked different fingers- never thumbs.. and stopped by the time they were in kindergarden. Our middle son used a pacifier and we were always looking for it- having attached fingers is much less stressful.
    Adorable photos.

    • July 26, 2011 10:56 pm

      Thanks! The only time she sucked the thumb at school is during her naps. She’s slowing giving those up. So I’m hoping that will help too. I’m sure it will be fine.

  14. July 25, 2011 7:26 pm

    No thumb-suckers in this family… But part of that, I think, was that The Munchkin started trying to suck her thumb & we gave her the binky instead because we knew we could take that away. Has the pediatrician or dentist said anything about her jaw development or anything? If it’s only at night or something, I doubt it’s affecting it too much. Maybe see if there’s a thumb-sucking book about growing up that you can read with her to plant the idea in her head, & then set some ground rules like “the blanky stays in bed” so that the thumb-sucking does too. After that, hopefully she can make that milestone leap herself. Good luck!

    • July 26, 2011 10:55 pm

      Oh I like the book idea! Sophie responds well to books. Maybe that will be a good low-stress strategy. Thanks!

  15. July 26, 2011 12:12 am

    Wish I could offer some sage advice, but neither of my kids ever sucked their thumbs. Didn’t use pacifiers, either. So, on the plus, it’s given you great fodder for your blog! 🙂 And such a cutie patootie, too! Great pix! 🙂

    • July 26, 2011 10:55 pm

      Interesting that neither of yours used their thumbs or pacifiers. Must be the great parenting you did!

  16. July 26, 2011 4:31 am

    Gorgeous pictures! My daughter sucked her thumb, and when the dentist told her she needed to stop sucking it, she took it upon herself to quit. She asked her dad and me to remind her if she put her thumb in her mouth, and she went around with socks on her hands so she wouldn’t be tempted. She was only three or four! That’s very unusual though. I think it made an impression on her because the dentist talked directly to her about stopping. Some children will need braces whether or not they sucked their thumbs, and I don’t know if stressing them out by doing drastic things (some parents put cayenne pepper on their children’s thumbs!) is worth upsetting them so much.

    • July 26, 2011 10:54 pm

      What a smart daughter you have! I did notice that when the dentist spoke with Sophie, she did get it. And I think she is trying. I really hate to resort to devices and evil-tasting ointments on the thumb. Gross!

  17. July 26, 2011 4:35 am

    i used to suck my thumb, so comforting as a child

    • July 26, 2011 10:53 pm

      I know. I can tell just by looking at Sophie how soothing it is. Thanks for commenting!

  18. July 26, 2011 9:42 am

    Well none of you sucked your thumb but . . as many of your fellow bloggers have said, “She’ll do it where she’s ready. Just keep reminding her every once in a while what the dentist said about her teeth. I’ll bet now that she’s conscious of what the dentist said and with “peer pressure” at school, it’ll come. The Gopher is a smart cookie – she’ll do it in time. Good job on keeping blankie, tho. You’re a good mom, Boo! ❤

    • July 26, 2011 10:52 pm

      It’s funny how none of us were thumb-suckers or even pacifier kids. Wonder why that was.

  19. July 26, 2011 2:39 pm

    So glad about the blankie, too! I remember other Mothers I knew saying, “it’s time to take away their favorite blankie or stuffed animal…” and I thought, why? I sucked my thumb for years; I think if the dentist had said something to me and I started school I would have let it go quickly. I like what they said above about what the old doc said, too!
    Seems like nowadays EVERYONE gets braces for awhile. Mine both did, and they had pacifiers.

    • July 26, 2011 10:51 pm

      I was neither a thumb-sucker or pacifier kid and I still needed braces and major oral surgery. So you’re right; maybe if we go into this expecting orthodontics anyway, all will be fine.

  20. Cyndi permalink
    July 27, 2011 5:37 am

    Okay, confession time……I sucked my thumb until I grew out of it. One daughter (4), sucks her thumb and the other daughter (2), sucks her finger…..they both have blankies, which I refuse to take away….EVER!! And, why, you ask? Because I am 40 and I STILL sleep with my blankie….LOL Kids ALL grow out of the thumb sucking….now blankie is another thing….
    My blankie is more like a net now, but I can’t sleep without it. It was one of my conditions of marriage….I told my hubby if he had a problem with me sleeping with my blankie that I wouldn’t marry him! LOL Now, mind you, I don’t take it with me wherever I go, but it’s the perfect size to roll into a ball and prop up my arm, so that’s why it’s still around. Your precious Sophie will grow out of her thumb, but blankie may be there forever! 😀

  21. March 15, 2016 9:02 pm

    She will remove the blank by herself when she feels comfortable. I know some people that use pepper or some other kind of material and try to make the kid stop thumb sucking. Your daugher is beautiful!

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