When my daughter was a newborn, I kept hoping she’d start sucking her thumb. I know that’s a weird thing to wish for, but hear me out.
Initially, my daughter loved her pacifier. It was a great way to get her to stop crying, to soothe her, and to get her to sleep for long(ish) stretches at night. But this also meant that in the early weeks, I’d be up most of the night putting the pacifier back in her mouth after it inevitability fell out. She couldn’t yet put it back in her mouth, especially while swaddled, so my job was to put the pacifier back in. I think there were some nights when I put the pacifier back in 100 times.
Endlessly putting the pacifier back in was the only way to get her back to sleep, and it meant this mom wasn’t getting any good sleep stretches. Everything would be so much easier if she’d just suck her thumb.
And then one day, my wish came true. She discovered her thumb and completely lost interest in the pacifier. This was great, her thumb was always around for some simple self-soothing and required no work from me. And honestly, that thumb sucking is pretty darn cute.
Now my daughter is 1 and she’s still sucking her thumb. And she’s doing it a lot. And it’s still really cute! But when will this become a problem and when do I need to intervene?
I’ve heard that thumb sucking is a much harder habit to break compared with a pacifier since you can’t take it away. I’ve also heard that both thumb sucking and pacifier use can impact a baby’s teeth.
I did my research and spoke with our pediatrician. If you are the parent of a fellow thumb-sucker, fear not: it’s really not a big deal.
According to Mayo Clinic, thumb sucking is not an issue until a child’s permanent teeth come in, which usually happens around age 6. We have plenty of time to break the habit should it continue for years to come.
As for advice from our pediatrician, it’s impossible right now to explain to a baby why they should stop sucking their thumb. Until they can understand the request for them to stop, it’s not worth trying. And it’s also not worth worrying about. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that treatment or addressing the issue can happen if a child still sucks their thumb after turning 5 years old.
There are a lot of things to worry about in parenthood, and there’s no need to get ahead of ourselves. Thumb sucking during the baby and toddler years is not a cause for alarm and is very normal. It has a soothing and calming effect, and who doesn’t want a calm baby? So for now, I’ll just soak in the adorableness that is my sweet baby sucking her thumb.