Friday, May 20, 2011

Help! Thumb sucking - what am I going to do?

My 4 year old sucks her thumb and it makes her very happy.  And since it makes her happy it makes the whole family happy.  However, her teeth aren't happy.  And she's getting too old for it.

So what to do?  I have no idea.  Some of the other kids had dummies.  They were easy to get rid of.  But this is my first thumb sucker.

Would love suggestions and I'll tell you how we go.

9 comments:

JMS said...

Oh Jenny you have some to the right person. E sucked her thumb for a very long time and there was no incentive at all that would help her stop. Eventually (by about Year 1) we convinced her that she needed to break the habit at night and day time would follow.

Our Orthodontist friend suggested a device called a Thumb Guard, It is strapped onto the childs hand at bed time using a hospital style wrist band that must be cut off each morning. Each night, E could choose which colour band she wanted. The thumbguard means there is no suction if the thumb goes in their mouth.

It is recommended that the guard is worn every night for about six weeks to completely break the habit. It can also be worn during the day but E did have that under control (most of the time - you know the triggers eg tiredness etc).

I have to admit it is a bit like controlled crying. You have to commit to it. It can be upsetting and lead to a bit of sleep deprivation at first. However it is definitely worth it. E has since had some more orthodontic work and it will continue for a few years yet (staged).

If you are interested I will see if D can source one for you.

Julie

Jenny said...

Yes - that sounds great Julie - you have connections in the right places! Is there an age recommendation for when it works best? Do you think it will work for a 4 year old? She's not too bad during the day - when she's tired or finds her wrap (which is easy enough to chuck out).

Pip said...

We've had two stop a couple of years ago (at ages 5 and 3) and have one more child help stop.
I saw the thumb guards on the net but decided to use them as a last resort due to the price.

Basic plan we used below- it's long but I thought it was better to use just about every idea i had heard at once for maximum impact : )
1) Waited until they were happy to participate in the process - let them choose a reward of significant value for 8-12 weeks of non sucking.
2) Massive reward chart on the wall with at least three weeks outlined on it.
3) Each day divided initially into short time periods - morning, afternoon, evening, bed.
4) Got a sticker on the chart for each time period of non sucking on the chart (after 1-2 weeks just did it daily).We did it in Jan school holidays so distrupted sleep didn't matter.
5) After three, six and 14 days of non- sucking got a small reward (colouring book or whatever) just to keep the momentum up
6) During the day put novelty bandaids on their thumb to remind them not to suck (especially during tv watching)
7) Chucked out the comfort items
8) At bedtime put that horrible nail biting deterrant on their thumbs/fingers. Initially just used a sock but 5yo took it off while asleep. I kept putting this stuff on for 6months - just to make sure.
9) Had to tell them each night what to do with/where to put their hands while trying to go to sleep as their habit was in the mouth and had to now establish a new habit.
10) Prayed : )

First night/week was the hardest but both did well and got the big prizes at the end. (We did it in Jan school holidays so distrupted sleep didn't matter). 5yo (now 8)still finds it very hard to settle and go to sleep each night but her teeth are looking ok (will need work eventually but orthodontist doesn't think it is necessarily due to thumb sucking). 3yo's teeth had moved back into place 6months later.

Karen said...

No suggestions from me, even though my kids have been finger-suckers (index finger and middle finger together) they gave up themselves by about five years old. It wasn't pushing their teeth out of line though...
But I wanted to wish you luck with the process! Those thumb guards sound very interesting...

Jenny K said...

Like Karen, we had one who sucked the index and middle finger - and played with her belly button at the same time so couldn't get rid of the comfort thing that went with it! It went on for a LOOOONG time. It was her left hand so she could write and suck at the same time. We tried, teachers tried - rewards, icky stuff (she quite likes Tabasco sauce now!). We hoped peer pressure would work at school. It did. Her friends started sucking their fingers during story time!

One day, in Grade 2, she said, "I'm not going to suck my finger today" and I, of course, enthusuiastically responded, "That's fantastic" while internally said very sarcastically, "yep, whatever". But she didn't and that was pretty much the end of it - on her terms.

But - can I just say that it is a very beautiful place that they go. We've talked about it and even from watching her then, it is something that rights the world for them. I want to go there some days!

Joanna said...

I was remembering the other day that I sucked my thumb quite late - maybe 5? I stopped because mum held my hand every night while I went to sleep. Looking back I'm quite awed by her dedication though of course at the time I took it for granted! Unfortunately I then took up biting my nails, which is a lot less soothing and I'm still doing it at 36 :(

Naomi said...

I had to wear a sock on my hand to bed to break the habit. I was quite a bit older than 4, and it took about a week. I'm not sure how you'd get a 4 year old to leave it on though.

Deb L said...

I'm reading all of this with great interest because I have a 7-year old who still sucks two fingers. She's very good at getting off whatever we've put on those fingers before bed - even if she's initiated the bandaids or whatever it was. I never thought of holding her hand. I may have to resort to that! She'd never sleep though. She'd talk my ear off.

JMS said...

Pip is right Jenny, the thumb guard is quite expensive. I wonder if there is a version you could make yourself. A glove perhaps?
I agree the happy place they go to is lovely. I found it difficult to take that comfort away from E.

Not sure about age appropriateness regarding the thumbguard. I would expect it works at any age.