When my daughter was a baby, she never cared too much for a pacifier, but when she was around 4-months-old, she found her thumb. I thought it was cute and she started sleeping through the night. That’s when I realized what a life-saver it is when you have a baby that is a thumb-sucker.
As she got a bit older, and finally got some hair, she started to twirl her hair and suck her thumb. It about made my heart explode. Anytime she got sleepy and tired, we would joke about how she was “assuming the position.” Thumb in mouth, and hair twirling between her fingers.
She could self-soothe everywhere we went, and we never had to mess with sneaking into her room at night to shove the pacifier back in. We never forgot her thumb either because, obviously.
But, I also worried a little about her teeth because every stranger that saw her adorable habit would lament something along the lines of, “Oh boy. You’re going to have to put braces on her.” Others would say, “You better break that habit now before she needs braces.”
First of all, mind your own damn business, and second of all, so what? Practically every kid I know that enters puberty has to get braces. I didn’t really see what the big deal was. I had peace and sleep, and it was glorious. I have no regrets letting her be a thumb sucker.
As she got a little older, I started to worry that she wouldn’t kick the habit. We tried several things to help her, but I realized the key to helping her quit would be to just be encouraging, and also to wait until she wanted to kick the habit on her own.
She only used it at night and never sucked her thumb out in public past the age of 5 or 6. So, I wasn’t really worried about it. But, when she started getting older, she really wanted to quit, and I saw how hard it was for her. She sometimes cried because she wanted so badly to be able to quit.
We tried the nail polish trick, and all sorts of other methods, but the thing that finally helped her kick the habit was to put a band-aid on her thumb. Just like that, she was done with that thumb in three days.
Now, she’s 11 and she has a mouthful of braces. Honestly, my non-thumb-sucking kid is going to probably end up in braces, too. So, to me, it was more of a blessing than something to worry about. In fact, I kind of hoped my other two kids would be thumb suckers, too.
Parenting is full of a lot of battles that you have to fight. Every day we’re making decisions about what’s wrong and what’s right, how to approach a sticky subject. Every mother has to decide what is best for her child in hundreds of situations. We decide whether to bottle or breastfeed, whether to sleep train, or co-sleep, whether to do preschool or keep them home. And, the decisions don’t stop in the early years, they continue the rest of their lives. So, my worries about thumb sucking went away quickly when I saw how happy it made both of us.
Don’t worry if you’ve got a thumb sucker. There are plenty more important things to worry about as they get older. And, braces really aren’t the worst thing to happen in the world anyway.