Addicted to thumb sucking

Now that Little G no longer relies on dummies, I’m hoping that she won’t substitute it with thumb sucking.

Some parents may not see the harm in it – after all, it looks cute and it means they can self sooth themselves to sleep right?

Well, speaking from personal experience, I don’t want my daughter to be a thumb sucker as I was addicted.


Little girl, addicted to thumb suckingWhen I was younger, I was pretty much Linus van Pelt from Peanuts. I had my trusty blanket with silky edge, which I’d rub to death with my left hand and suck my right thumb.

By the time I was 7, I had perfected the art of substituting my blanket for silky labels. The feeling of relaxation I’d get from rubbing the top and bottom layers back and forth would be immense and looking back on it, was comparable to a neck massage. I knew I’d probably get the micky taken out of me if anyone caught me doing this at school, so instead I’d pretend I had an itch and have a sneaky rub. I probably wasn’t fooling anyone.

As far as I can remember, I didn’t suck my thumb in public – I had my trusty portable label system to help to feel soothed when out and about as an old habit. But that didn’t stop me from sucking it when I was going to sleep.

I vividly remember my mum painting disgusting tasting stuff onto my thumb to help me kick the habit. It tasted nasty.

It was so frustrating trying to get to sleep without it, when it was so ingrained into my routine of getting to sleep. When it automatically reached my mouth with that gross stuff on it, I’d wince but still feel the need.

You might as well have taken heroin away from an addict. I needed it and I’d do anything to get it. I had no control over it – it wasn’t a mind over matter object as in my eyes it was a necessity. Trying to fall asleep without it, but in arms reach (literally) was devastating. Plus, at that age I don’t think you can have mind over matter when you can’t understand why you shouldn’t be doing it.

I’d get to a point where I felt the need so desperately that I’d overcome the horrible taste, which would subside after a few minutes, just to feel the kick of relaxation. Or I’d spend ages trying to pick the varnish off. Now try and tell me that’s not an addiction… granted it wasn’t an addiction as bad as drugs or alcohol, but it was hard to kick none the less.

Luckily there aren’t any thumb dealers on the school playground otherwise I fear I may have been first in line.

Kicking the addiction

My mum tried everything for years to make me stop, but nothing seemed to really work. I’m not sorry that she tried relentlessly, as some parents from the above experience may have just given up and said “ah, she’ll stop at some point”. It really was for the best as I just couldn’t kick the habit on my own.

It got to the point at about 9 where I was old enough that I felt that I didn’t need to suck my thumb to get to sleep, but I’d wake up to find it in my mouth again. An addiction that I just couldn’t crack even when I wanted.

I’d started a vicious cycle of thumb sucking and I just couldn’t stop it.

It was pushing my front teeth forward – so much so that my dentist would always ask if I was a thumb sucker and know that I was lying when I said no. Luckily not enough that I needed braces, but I still have an overbite as a memento.

It also gave me a big round callus on my right thumb, which I had well into my teens. I still think my right thumb looks odd without the callus as I grew up with it as a normal sight.

So, when people say that thumb sucking doesn’t matter as a self soothing technique, I’d beg to differ. I’ve lived it and was old enough to remember how hard it was to give up. I don’t want my daughter to go through it.

But… I guess we just have to cross that bridge when we come to it and deal with it as best as we can as parents. It may sooth her for a short while, but it’s a habit I’d rather she not pick up.

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