Parenting- Thumb Sucking

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Thumb Sucking babiesThumb/Finger(s) sucking babies offer an adorable babyish look that attracts more kisses and cuddles. But, from a responsible parent’s perspective, it is a distressing deed to be culminated as quickly as possible.

What acts as a stress buster for babies turn to be a stress maker for parents. Poor parents are worried about the mouth and teeth alignments and language lisps.

I am writing this post as I was one among those pitiful parents! Yes, Nilaa had the habit of sucking 2 fingers(in the picture) from her first month of birth. Due to the threats posed by the society, I decided to kick out that habit in a week’s time ! I hid her hands using scratch mittens. The tiny baby searched for her teeny fingers and cried aloud for the calamity caused 🙁 I convinced myself thinking this scene would be short-lived and the trouble is just for her goodness.

My mom could no more hear the howl and she convinced me saying Nilaa is after all my copy-cat. I have enjoyed thumb-sucking till my age of 5 and my mom alleviated my habit just by teasing me and she reassured that the same strategy can be applied to Nilaa. Solaced by mom’s words, I unwrapped the mittens and the next minute, her fingers found their way to her mouth! She started sucking rapidly as if long-awaited for that soothing.

Now, I am glad that she is out of this habit just 2 months back when she was 2.6 years. Still I feel guilty for have hidden her pacifier(fingers) for a while!

This post is mainly to enlighten the like-minded parents. Never try your luck forcefully in advance. Please do wait for the time till she/he is ready to accept the change. You still have time before the permanent teeth protrude around the age of six.

It is said to be their natural reflex and plugging out the fingers forcefully would make them feel upset as finger sucking provides copious comfort to them. It just doesn’t mean that they are hungry. They opt for this whenever they feel isolated, scared, annoyed, disturbed from sleep and even when bored. Let them calm down and feel safe with their self-soothing !

Techniques to wean off thumb/finger sucking :

  • First try to reduce the timing and make it a night-time habit.
  • In day time, rather than consciously plugging out the finger, try to distract the baby by playing or offering something to hold so that the baby plugs out naturally.
  • Once the baby falls asleep, slowly pull the fingers out so that it is not soaked in saliva so long.
  • Associate one more sleep transitional object so that when you wean off finger sucking, the accustomed comforting object might compensate the loss. Nilaa had an elephant printed towel and she used to smell it along with finger sucking. When weaning off one, the other(smell of her towel) comforted her and still she never sleeps without her towel!
  • After the age of 2, you can playfully tease(puppy-shame) her/him for the habit and seek recommendations from her toy friends like Pooh bear, Mickey, Pingu who play joyfully without this nasty habit… Nonetheless, praise her/him when undone.
  • When they too feel to get rid of this,  it is really difficult for them to ban it as their fingers work impulsively. At this point, you can help them with Paediatrician prescribed solutions that discourage finger sucking and nail biting as that holds a bitter taste which compels them to stay away from mouth. But, do use it after clearing permissions from your pint-sized Prince/Princess!

I started thumb sucking within an hour of my birth. I would have developed this habit in the womb 😉 Be positive like my mom. Nothing is impossible for a willing heart. All you need are patience and perseverance. No worries and good luck ! Share me your stories …

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5 Responses to Parenting- Thumb Sucking

  1. ditasmom says:

    Hi Shyamala, Just discovered your space… A great site with a wealth of info…
    My lil one thumb sucked until 6.5 years… Any number of attempts since the day she started it did not work… Then suddenly last summer she just stopped her habit… Just like that… As you say it is a great comfort for the babies and now from personal experience I agree that though we should take efforts to discourage the habit and offer alternate comforts… We should not pressurise the kiddo… When they are ready am sure the kid will give up the habit… Keep up the great work

    • Shyamala says:

      @ditasmom, Thanks for sharing your thoughts.. Not too late that you discovered my space .. This site is just 6 months old 🙂 Long way to go and do come along…

  2. RKS says:

    This is very nice site! I just discovered it too seeing millet laddu. ?Now regarding thumb sucking. Yes my mom told I was sucking my thumb till 3 years and my MIL told my husband was sucking his thumb till 1st grade. No wonder that my son is sucking thumb. He is 2.5 now and I never compelled him to take it off. He is getting to know slowly now. I usually say “No sucking” other than nap time. Hopefully He is going to leave the habit soon by himself. I am not stressing him. And I love your words” Thumb/Finger(s) sucking babies offer an adorable babyish look that attracts more kisses and cuddles”. Its true 🙂

    • Shyamala says:

      @RKS, Thanks for your compliments and hearty welcome to my space. Hope your son would not continue thumb-sucking so long as his dad 😉 All the best !

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