Katie Katie Parsons is the creator of Mumbling Mommy and is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. She works from her home office on the east coast of Florida. Most often she writes about life in a combined family of five children and what it's like being a full time work-from-home parent. Feel free to pitch guest post ideas or just drop her a line at katie@mumblingmommy.com.


Thumb sucking on a walk at six-months-old

I have a thumb-sucker in the house. She just turned four and has been doing it since the drive home from the hospital after she was born. I’m not talking about an occasional finger in the mouth to signal that she is hungry — I mean an all-out thumb in mouth, index finger linked around her nose habit.

When she was a baby, it was really adorable. It also seemed to soothe her in the way that a pacifier soothes other children. I credit her thumb-sucking habit with helping me get more sleep in those early months and making her an independent, sound sleeper by the age of six months.

I never sucked my thumb, but her paternal grandmother assures me that her father did. So a part of me has always believed that her tendency to suck her thumb at two-days old is partially genetic.

Now that she is four and we are preparing to send her to preschool in the fall, I know that the thumb really does have to go (the habit I mean, of course). She does not do it outside of the home or in her daily routine. The thumb only shows up at bedtime or if she is very worn out in the middle of the afternoon.

Even when she is very upset or hurt, she does not suck her thumb. It is merely a bedtime ritual. As a result, I’m not that worried about the other kids teasing her for it because I doubt that the other kids will see it. At this point, I am more concerned about her oral health and the slight overbite that has already formed.

I’ve had several other parents give me advice on how to cure the thumb-sucking pattern. I’ve heard everything from using Thumb Guard (at a whopping $75) to dashing Tobasco sauce on her thumbs before bed.

A few months ago, I felt valiant and tried to stop the habit by putting bandaids around her thumbs before bed for a few nights in a row but she seemed really embarassed in front of the other kids. I know that I need to just buckle down and pick something to cure her, but with a newborn that barely sleeps at night, I’m not sure I’m ready for more bedtime drama right now.

If you are a parent like me who has a nearly-school-aged child who still likes to suck his or her thumb, Contemporary Pediatrics recommends the following tips for weaning:

Choose the right time. Trying to break your child of a habit like thumb sucking after say, oh, I don’t know… the arrival of a new sibling… is discouraged. The journal says that most five-year-olds will understand what is expected of them if you explain the need to stop. The average preschooler may not. Understand your child and assess the stability in his or her life before determining to take on weaning from thumb sucking.

Motivate your child. Show him or her what damage the thumb sucking is doing to teeth and fingers. Discuss the germs that may be found on the thumbs that then go into his or her mouth. Emphasize that you only want what is best for your child and want your child to be healthy above all else.

Give rewards/reminders. This point reminds me of potty training tips. Kids react well when they know that they can earn something in the process. Use small toys or trinkets to show that you appreciate the hard work your child is doing to stop the thumb-sucking habit. Do not take anything away or “punish” your child — only offer positive reinforcement.

The journal also says that breaking the habit will likely take three months to complete, so parents need to be patient.

Looks like I have some plans for my summer vacation.

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Category: Babies

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