Monday, July 11, 2011

Dealing With Thumb-sucking

I cannot count the number of times I've googled for tips on how to help my daughter quit thumb sucking. But none of them has ever provided me with definite answers. Most of my readings suggested that I should not intervene as most kids outgrow it (especially when they start eating solids).

My daughter has been thumb-sucking since she was an infant. I had wanted to intervene right then and there but I was a bookish first time mom and I trusted my readings. I remember distracting her once with a pacifier but she never took my bait. Pacifiers were never as good as the thumb I reckon. So I told myself I will just interfere when she's already two and still sucking. At that time, I trusted that she will eventually get rid of the habit when she starts eating solids. 

In one of my readings, I came across these guide questions:

-Does she suck all day? 
-Was it affecting her oral development? 
-Was the habit interfering with her social and communication skills? 

Should I answer yes to all three, it suggested that I put an effort towards ending the habit. But at that point, I felt I was in the other end of the spectrum. The first question I could answer with a firm NO. Maia and the thumb were best friends only during bedtime because it lulled her to sleep.But it never really progressed to a all-day affair. The other two I couldn't answer yet with a definite NO at that time but I was confident it will be then so I decided to take it easy. I also came across a write up (couldn't remember where I read it now) that correlated smoking addiction to a kid never outgrowing his oral stage. I did not want that to happen to my daughter so I left her alone. I told myself I should let nature take its course and wait for her to rid of the habit on her own.

Unfortunately, she never did. Now she is turning 3 in a few months and  I am anxious because I've set myself a deadline - away with the sucking by the 3rd birthday.

This weekend we brought the little girl to the dentist for her routine check up and the dentist echoed my fears. When the thumb-sucking persists, we will have to deal with more teeth problem than expected. She mentioned another issue -- apparently, there are some believers that thumb-sucking is a sign of childhood insecurity and is usually a manifestation that you are not spending time with your kid. The teeth problem we can fix with braces but it really bothered me being told that my little girl will grow up to be insecure and being judged to be a parent who doesn't spend time with her child. That thought nagged me overnight. Then I realized I take the effort to parent consciously. My husband and I do make sure we spend quality time with our daughter, so why should I be bothered?

So I am letting that part go. But I know I still have to do something about this thumb-sucking. I've tried gently talking her out of it. I've tried the reward system. I've gone to the point of scaring her the fingers might fall off if she kept on it. I've tried wrapping the hand in mittens. All these 'gentle' attempts failed. The best it got us was a few days off then she's back on it again. Now the thumb is already calloused.

Yesterday, I resorted to drastic measures and put ginger extract over the favorite thumb. I forgot about timing though and got the worst tantrum we've ever had to deal with in return. Yes, if you are going to train your kid to get rid of a habit please do remember NOT to do it when you're about to put your child to sleep. Tired + away with the habit is NOT a good combination. I ended up with one wailing - or rather hysterically shouting - little girl. "Tama na, Mommy. Tama na, Mommy! Masakiiiiiiiiiiiit!" I was already half expecting a knock from the neighbor asking what's wrong because she sounded like we were hurting her. I could take the hysterics but her dad couldn't. I was confident that she understood we had a 'project' to finish and I felt I just had to be firm about it but the hubby was already begging me to give in and even if I kept telling him giving in to the tantrum would be inconsistency on our part he wouldn't hear of it. So I folded. I hugged her and I told her I love her very much. She went to sleep sobbing. That really broke my heart so I vowed to go easy next time.

That night when we were about to sleep and I reminded her of our 'project', she stroked my face and told me "Mommy, go to sleep now. Goodnight!" I knew she would have wanted to spend a few more extra minutes clowning around with me but instead opted to bribe me into sleeping way ahead of her just so she can escape my nagging. She even cupped my face and said I love you and kissed me goodnight. It caught me by surprised and I realized "wow, she's now using her charm to get her way. Amazing how kids think these days"

I am still searching for tips that could help me deal with this issue better. I can now answer the guide questions with a firm NO. But I still believe that doing away with the habit will benefit her in many ways than one. Right now, I'm just grateful there are days I can now sit with her and talk things through. I'm glad that even at this early age, she knows that she has to let it go eventually. I now understand that she is just asking for some 'palugit' from Mommy. There are just days that I can't understand how we were able to wean from bottle-feeding on schedule. We did it cold turkey and she never made it difficult for us.

Oh well, we will get there. For now, I guess I will have to remind myself that there are just certain habits that are really hard to break. And it's even more difficult if they are habits that bring you so much comfort. What's a kid to do? It's a big world out there, everything's just so new and the thumb is the closest best friend there is.

If you're dealing with the same issue as me, I'm sharing here two articles from Dr. Sears and BabyCenter that you might find useful. If you've successfully kicked out this habit, I'd appreciate you sharing your personal tips as well. Thanks for taking time to read this post. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Faye! We had the same problem with our niece. Lately lang din nawala ang thumbsucking niya. As in this year lang when she was 8 years old. I noticed na parang kumapal yun upper lip niya and meron nang kalyo yun thumb. I noticed din na she would resort to nail biting naman whenever we try to push her to stop the habit. Kaya we just stopped asking her to stop and let her be. I think it was a source of security pero hindi naman ibig sabihin insecure. kapal kaya ng face ng mga pamangkin ko. anyhoo, she stopped when her pedia told her na baka kaya siya nagka LBM is nasubo niya yun thumb niya na may germs. ngayon, ok na yun kalyo free na yun thumb and di na mukhang makapal yun lip niya. Ok rin naman yun teeth niya.

Faye Paras said...

Thanks Maqui! That made me feel a lot better! Maia is trying naman pero yun lang siguro talaga since for the last 32 months it's always been a source of comfort mahirap talaga to let go :( But I will really stop nagging na. Kawawa din naman.

Nerissa "Jeng" Remo-Aquino said...

Hi Faye. Your post reminded me naman of Nathan's habit of sucking pacifier when he is sleepy. Not very concerned at the moment pero my parents have been reminding me that I should start getting the "pacifier" out of Nathan's system. Tapos dun sa June 2011 issue ng Smart Parenting may topic rin about habits of our children. Ganun nga raw, hindi dapat drastic. Parang allow the child to naturally get rid of it. Anyway, thanks for sharing mommy thoughts and experiences :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I happen to bump on this post? So how’s your child now (and her thumb-sucking habit)?

faye paras said...

Hi, Maia is now 6. Unfortunately, she still thumbsucks herself to sleep occasionally. But she is more conscious now and she really makes the effort to stop. :( I think it would have helped her rid of the habit if the distraction we offered was something other than a pillow. A stuff toy or blanket perhaps?

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