An unusual cure for thumb-sucking

My four-month-old baby always has his hand in his mouth.  He puts himself to sleep by sucking madly on his fist and I can hear the loud slurping sound from downstairs.  Often when I go in to check on him, his tiny little thumb is still sitting in his slightly open mouth, and if a noise jolts him, he gives it a comforting little suck before going right back to sleep.

It’s cute, yes, but I’m not at all happy about it.  You see, I was a hardcore thumb-sucker as a kid and that’s definitely not what I want for my own kids.  I started sucking my thumb from a young age and did it for years.  My routine, as weird as it sounds, was as follows: right thumb in the mouth, stroke left earlobe with left hand.  (Funny how things you do as a kid become quite gross in retrospect!)  Sometimes I’d switch it up and suck the left thumb for a change, but it never worked.  That thumb felt and tasted different, so back I went to the trusty old right side.  I swear that my thumbs are slightly asymmetrical as a result!

What side I chose to suck didn’t matter much to my exasperated parents, who tried everything to make me stop.  Logic didn’t work.  Neither did putting soap or pepper on my thumb.  I quickly learned that if I sucked long enough, the awful taste would go away.  Wrapping my thumb in masking tape was slightly more successful, but if I got desperate enough, I’d simply suck the tape.  At least I could feel the basic shape of my thumb beneath it!

One evening, when I was in grade two, my parents went out for dinner at an elegant, rustic lodge in nearby Algonquin Provincial Park.  It was a placed they loved going, and after this particular visit, I lapped up the details of their dinner.  I had a mental image of the beautiful round dining room overlooking a lake and the delicious gourmet meal they had enjoyed beside the fireplace.  I wanted desperately to go.  You see, I’ve always loved good food!

Around the same time, my mom sat me down and asked, “What will it take to make you stop sucking your thumb?”  She was prepared to use bribery, if necessary.  “Well,” I negotiated, “you could take me out for dinner at the lodge in the Park.”  She stared at me.  “I was thinking more along the lines of a book or something, but are you sure?”  “Yes!”  “Okay, then.  Starting right now, if you don’t suck your thumb for three months, we’ll take you.”

Guess what!  I never sucked my thumb again.  And sure enough, three months later, on a beautiful sunny October day, I got even more than a fancy dinner out.  My parents picked me and my sister up from school in the late morning and we drove to Algonquin Park, about an hour away, for a picnic lunch.  We spent the day hiking spectacular trails until dinner, at which point  I changed into my favourite black-and-yellow sunflower dress in the car and we headed to dine at the lodge.  That day was worth the three months’ struggle, let me assure you.  It was a grand way to break a bad habit!

The next step, though, was fixing my two front teeth, which had begun to resemble those of a beaver.  I wore a retainer for a number of years, which at the time I considered to be the pinnacle of elementary school coolness; well, maybe not quite as cool as those braces with coloured pads that could be changed to match the season, but at least I could flick the retainer out with my tongue and shock people when they least expected it.

Now that roles are reversed, however, and I’m the parent, I do not want to go through that with my own kids.  I’m hoping my son’s hand- and thumb-sucking is just a baby phase, but I’ll be keeping my eye on it.  I don’t want to have to calculate fancy meals into the dental budget!


5 thoughts on “An unusual cure for thumb-sucking

  1. All of my kids were little “suckers.” The oldest needed braces, the second one doesn’t, the third one most likely will. It honestly seems to have more to do with genetics than with thumb-sucking. I wouldn’t worry about it too much!

  2. I sucked my thumb until I was almost ten, so I hear you about the thumb-sucking worries. My son did it for a very brief while when he was very young, but he stopped doing it pretty quickly. He sucks his fingers occasionally still, but not in habitual ways. Thank goodness.

  3. I sucked my thumb my whole life and I WISHED my children sucked their thumbs….for a variety of reasons. Children that suck their thumbs are self soothing. They put themselves to sleep….they pop their thumb in their mouth when they get sleepy or are sick or hurt themselves ect…. their is no searching high and low for a pacifier(in the car ? under the couch? in my purse…where ,where where is a damn pacifier!) a couple months of breaking them from that habit is a small price to pay for the YEARS of comfort they get from sucking their thumb…..and chances are they will need braces anyway whether they suck their thumb or not. Personally I think people who have sucked their thumb are very well adjusted human beings because they can comfort themselves and put themselves to sleep. I have spent at least a hundred hours rocking my little ones to sleep (just to have them wind up in my bed anyway) I don’t agree with the common notion that we have to break them of this habit. Let them suck away ! ….And mommy can read her book or have a glass of wine and enjoy the silence.

  4. You could always try Thumbuddy to Love…great product to help stop thumb sucking…google Thumbuddy To Love or get it on Amazon.

  5. Hmm, interesting solution your parents came up with. I never sucked my thumb (at least to my knowledge) when I was a kid, but my daughter does. I’ll have to keep this in mind.

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