When Theo was about 6 months old, we decided it was time to stop swaddling him at night. He loved it, but if I remember right, he was just getting too big for even the largest size and was strong enough to bust out of them. He loved his pacifier more than he loved being swaddled. Little did we know, there would be something he loved more than both of those things combined.
As soon as he broke out of those swaddles, he found his thumb, dropped the pacifier, and never looked back. Initially, we half-heartedly pulled his thumb out of his mouth whenever he started sucking, but what can you really do? A kid that wants to suck his thumb is going to suck his thumb. He was just a baby, after all.
Last year right before his 3rd birthday, he visited the dentist for the first time. We’d noticed that his front two teeth were being pushed forward gradually. The dentist noticed too, but told us that he just needed to stop by the time he got his permanent teeth. No pressure on us and little to no pressure on Theo. We started talking to him about it regularly but didn’t push. Just told him that he needed to stop because it was going to hurt his big boy teeth. We also pointed out that his left thumb is dry and calloused as a result of all the sucking.
In the past couple of months, he’s said that he wants to stop sucking his thumb. He even asked us to put a band-aid on it before bed a couple of times, but then took it right off. We didn’t want to do anything mean in order to make him stop. We explained that thumb-sucking is typically considered something that babies do and even though we know he’s not a baby, there might be kids at school or other places that say mean things about it if he continues. Normally, he’ll grab his favorite blanket, put it near his face and start sucking his thumb while holding a bunched section of the blanket in the same hand. When asked why he’s sucking his thumb, he’ll say “because my blanket’s fluffy.” The soft texture of his blanket goes hand-in-hand with this urge to suck his thumb.
As his 4th birthday is approaching, we’ve been talking about it with him. He’ll say “when I’m 4 years old, I’m gonna…” We’ll say “you know what else is going to happen when you’re 4? You’re going to stop sucking your thumb! Yay!” He’s agreed to stop, but never showed any signs of being ready.
Until last weekend.
While I was out of town, he told Ryan to throw his favorite blanket away because he wants to stop sucking his thumb, but the blanket makes him. Ryan put the blanket away in our closet and Theo never asked for it the rest of the weekend. On Monday night we were heading home from the gym when Theo said to me, “Mommy, I miss my green kanket.” I played dumb. “Oh? What do you mean? What happened to it?” He told me that he’d given it to daddy because he wanted to stop sucking his thumb. I asked what daddy did with it and he replied “I told him to throw it away but I don’t think he did because every time I look in the trash, it’s not there!”
My heart melted, picturing my sweet kid quietly and secretly checking the trash several times a day to see if his favorite blanket had been thrown in with the garbage. I asked him what he thought happened to his blanket and he said he didn’t know but that he was going to talk to Daddy about it.
He didn’t mention it the rest of the night Monday but Tuesday morning, he asked Ryan for it. He promised he wouldn’t suck his thumb and that he just wanted to hold green kanky while watching a movie. Ryan quickly gave in.
Tuesday night after the boys were fast asleep, I snuck into their room to steal a peek at them. Theo wasn’t sucking his thumb. I felt incredibly proud and a little emotional to think that he was taking this seriously, like such a big boy. He suddenly seemed so mature and dedicated to his goal. I kissed both of their heads and went back to the living room to report my findings to Ryan.
Thursday night, I did the same, but my findings were different. Theo was sucking his thumb. I pulled his wrist and instinctively, he started sucking and pulled his thumb back into his mouth. In a split second, his eyes shot open and he pulled his thumb out of his mouth and stuck his hand under his pillow. He looked at me and said “I wasn’t sucking my thumb!” I told him it was okay and to try again. He said “I’m still tired, mommy,” and I reassured him that he still had plenty of time to sleep.
So in almost a week, that’s the only time I’ve seen him sucking his thumb and the only time I’m aware of him sucking his thumb. I asked him once or twice if he sucked his thumb at naptime and he denied it so although I really have no way of knowing, there’s just something about this process that’s bittersweet.
I’ve had people suggest putting little braces or gross tasting solutions on his thumb. I know that he does this for comfort and self-soothing, and while I know he truly needs to stop, I couldn’t bring myself to use anything but reason to help him. He genuinely wants to stop, and based on what I have seen so far, I think he will.
Was your child a thumb-sucker? Until what age?
How did you help him/her stop?