My Daughter Sucks Her Thumb & That's OK With Me

I sucked my thumb for the first 12 years of my life. And even though it has lost its appeal now that I am in my 30s, there are still moments when I am stressed and go to put it in my mouth. My husband laughs because when I watch TV, I still suck on just the tip. It's unconscious and not nearly as forceful as it was when I was 7, but old habits die hard. And sucking one's thumb is a doozy.

I'm not alone. One in 10 ADULTS still sucks their whole thumb (not just the tip), including singer Rihanna. My daughter, nearly 5, is also just as committed to the habit with no signs of slowing down. And as a former thumb-sucker myself, I can't bring myself to stop her.

Her dentist told us there is no massive hurry, but she ought to be done with it before her adult teeth start coming in, and that could be soon. As someone who endured years of painful (and expensive) orthodontics, I should know better.


But I can't help it. I remember how soothing it is and I hate to take it away from her. We thumb-suckers are a crowd who know one another anywhere. Shel Silverstein wrote our battle cry:

Oh the thumbsucker's thumb may be wrinkled and wet

And withered as white as the snow

But the taste of the thumb

Is the sweetest taste yet

As only we thumbsuckers know.

Indeed. Anyone who hasn't sucked their thumb really has no idea. I can remember the way my thumb seemed to fit perfectly in my mouth. It was as if (in my young mind) it was made to go there. My mother tried nail polishes and Tabasco sauce and bribery and everything else to get me to stop. I would (or could?) not.

It wasn't until I had my braces that I finally gave it up. I was in seventh grade.

When my daughter sucks her thumb, a calm comes over her that almost nothing else could provide. If it were a binky or bottle, I would merely take it away, but since it's her thumb, that's impossible. We haven't worked too hard on her (yet) to get her to stop, though there is an American Girl doll she wants to add to her collection, and we've told her she can't have it until she stops with the thumb.

It hasn't worked. And I'm in no hurry to force her to be done with it. It's just too soothing for her. My daughter (like me) has big emotions. She feels things deeply and has very high highs and very low lows. For her, the thumb helps regulate that. And until we have a good substitute, I'm not ready to force her to let it go.

She will (as I remember) learn to stop sucking her thumb in front of other people at some point while she is in school. It becomes embarrassing. It will naturally stop. Hopefully, anyway. Hopefully she won't be one of the adults still sucking her thumb and destroying her teeth. But she has plenty of time before adulthood and I'm not going to take away something that is so soothing for her.

A set of $5,000 braces seems a small price to pay for her happiness now.

Does your child suck his or her thumb? How did they stop?


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