I Don’t Hate Thumb Sucking


I Don’t Hate Thumb Sucking Show of hands: how many of you hoped for a thumb sucker?

Probably not too many if I had to guess. We’ve all heard the horror stories of kids who are way too old still sucking their thumbs. We’ve seen the dental devices and thumb contraptions meant to break the habit and thought, “I’ll never let my kid do that.” But here you are. Probably reading this because you have a thumb sucker nonetheless. These stories are true, and hard, but I’m not sure they represent the majority of thumb-sucking experiences. So if you are looking for reassurance, let me be the first to share:

I don’t hate thumb sucking.

My first baby was three-months-old when she found her thumb. Despite trying every pacifier in existence, I finally accepted that she just didn’t like them. Unfortunately, babies are born with a biological drive to suck on something, so she used me like a pacifier instead. That all changed one glorious night when I awoke to my daughter’s usual midnight waking, started to get up, then heard her suddenly stop crying. I waited a few minutes, but she didn’t start crying again. Being riddled with postpartum anxiety, I had to go check on her anyway. There she lay, sucking her thumb, peacefully nodding off to sleep. My three-month-old baby was putting herself back to sleep!

This scenario repeated with my second baby…and again with my third.

Despite a small army of pacifiers and the best intentions, all of my babies eventually found their way to their thumbs and never looked back. I may eat these words someday since my third is still a member of the thumb sucking club, but we’ve had good experiences with thumb sucking. I daresay I even hoped a teeny bit that my last baby would find it.

First, they always have it with them. I’ve never frantically searched the bottom of a diaper bag or gone back home to get a paci. There is no middle of the night searching for pacis on the floor or scouring eBay for that one special brand that is no longer sold in stores. My baby can pop his thumb in without my help whenever he needs it. “Self-soothing” can be controversial in some contexts, but I am a huge fan of some on-the-go thumb-sucking soothing.

A little dirt won’t hurt. I realize there might be some varying opinions here, but my general philosophy of child rearing is that some exposure to germs is good. It’s a little cringe-worthy when I see that little thumb go in their mouth right after touching a handrail, and I definitely hold those hands captive when we’re in public restrooms, but overall, environmental exposure has been good for them. Plus, it’s a great reminder to wash our hands often!

Quitting the thumb was not as hard as I expected. I feel like this is the most nerve-wracking part of having a thumb sucker. “How will you get her to stop?” was by far the most frequent question asked when people realized my first baby was a thumb sucker. I honestly wasn’t sure what our plan was at first, but we regularly consulted with our pediatric dentist, who recommended actively helping our kids stop at three-years-old. For my first two children, our dentist recommended a bitter-tasting liquid specifically designed for thumb sucking. We painted it on their thumbs, and both kids stopped sucking their thumb within days. The first night was rough, but no harder than I imagine taking away a paci would have been. Both of my kids’ teeth stuck out a little from their thumb sucking, but their teeth straightened up freaky fast.

If you stumbled upon this blog because you’ve got a thumb sucker and are feeling a little anxious about it, take a deep breath. It is very likely that your sweet baby will be just fine. They will eventually stop. Their teeth will straighten up. You might even grow to miss that little thumb-in-the-mouth grin. Take some good pictures of this precious, fleeting time and enjoy it.


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