Friday, 23 October 2015

With These Hands - Story of a Recovering Thumb Sucker & Blanket Addict

I was almost relieved that my infant daughter was a thumb sucker.  She was fussy, had colic for months on end, and was Twin A/Type A to her more laid back Twin B Brother.  Any self-soothing she could provide herself was welcomed.  Neither of my kids were big on pacifiers and I'd often joke that the best thing about a thumb sucking baby was that she'd never lose her "binky".  Fast forward four years.

Before the minions entered kindergarten Chris and I had a lengthy discussion about potential barriers and things that may make transition into a new school, with new friends more difficult.  One potential issue that we flagged for Molly was her Linus Van Peltish blanket loving and thumb sucking.

Linus, Peanuts, Blanket
Image courtesy of Peanuts Wiki

At pre-school she'd often arrive with her blanket in her hand and would often have her favourite ECE worker fashion it around her like a fashionably jaunty scarf. While she's never had just one blanket, as we purposefully mix it up to avoid a Knuffle Bunny situation it remains her key accessory.  If someone were to produce a "Molly Doll" the action figure would come with a blanket and sparkle boots.

In the end, the blanket was a lot easier to solve than we imagined.  Before she entered kindergarten we told her that she'd be giving up nap time and therefore would no longer need her blanket.  She still wanted it nearby, so we came to the compromise of rolling it up like a taco (Molly's words) and putting it at the bottom of her backpack, so she knows it's there and safe.  She doesn't take it out at school or her before and after program, but will often ask for it on her way home and we happily hand it over.

Baby and her blanket
  Baby Molly and her blanket courtesy of Shawn F. Nolan Photography.

As for the thumb sucking, it has continued.  It's not as constant as it once was, but she tends to associate it with the blanket and comfort and sucks her thumb when she's watching TV in the evening, tired or right before bed.

Chris and I decided on a "wait and see" policy on bringing up the thumb sucking with her, knowing that it was better as a decision she came to on her own.  Kindergarten has been enough of an adjustment without taking away her safety net.

Although there is some debate among dentists surrounding thumb sucking and jaw development, most kids generally stop on their own between age two and four, and adult teeth don't come in until around age five-six.


A few weeks ago Molly noticed a bump on her thumb, was concerned and came to us to ask about her boo-boo. She has a callous/blister on her thumb, caused by over four years of her habit. Anxiously she asked us for a solution, our answer: Stop sucking your thumb.  She told us that she was ready and wanted us to remind her when she was sucking her thumb and we agreed.

The next morning, after a deliberate effort to stop sucking her thumb Molly asked us if her blister was gone.  When we told her it wasn't and that it would take time and then she burst into tears.  She wanted the blister gone immediately.  We reminded her that it took four years to create the blister, it would take longer than 16 hours for it to go away. We asked her if she wanted a congratulatory present when she finally kicked the habit for good, she's decided on a Little Mermaid Ariel doll.

She's doing great and making progress, but evenings, bed time, and when she's stressed out or gets hurt (she's clumsy like her mom) are the toughest times to kick the habit.  The callous is slowly fading and this weekend I offered to put scented lotion on her hands and paint her nails to celebrate how well she's doing.  I'm so glad that I withheld my usual instinct to push on this one, maybe I am learning a thing or two about parenting.

For a list of helpful Do's and Don'ts to stop your child from thumb sucking click here.

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