Stopping The Thumbsucking

Image by Byron and Tamara

Next Wednesday our beautiful Possum turns five. This year her birthday means something other than just a celebration – it is also the day that she needs to stop thumbsucking.

The youngest, Babaganouski, is the only child in the family to date, not to suck thumb or fingers as a way of self comforting. It was at age five that we also worked with Thinker and Little Rascal to stop their finger sucking and thumbsucking habits.

As this is a habit, it is not an easy thing to stop instantly. There is all sorts of advice out there as to how to go about this and what age is appropriate for children to stop the thumbsucking habit.

We have found five to be a workable age to get success. At five they can begin to understand the long term damage that they can do to their teeth by prolonged thumbsucking. A five year old is also capable of taking on gentle reminders and in our case has become less reliant on the thumb as a source of comfort. In Possum’s case, she really only resorts to her thumb in times of tiredness now.

We are going to use the same approach with Possum that we have with her brothers, which is pretty simple:

Give Plenty Of Warning.
We have talked occasionally over the last six months about how once she is five, she can no longer suck her thumb.

The Reasons Why.
We have a great little booklet that I picked up from the dentist which has a photograph of the damage that can be done to teeth from prolonged thumbsucking. It is important that the Possum knows that there is a sound reason why she can no longer suck her thumb and that it is not just a rule that we make up for our own enjoyment – it is important for the health of her teeth.

Gentle Reminders.
As it is a long held habit, Mr I and myself need to realise that as a natural reaction to tiredness, Possum may start thumbsucking without even noticing it herself. We will need to gently remind her to remove her thumb.

Past experience with her older brothers has shown us, that doing this as discreetly as possible works best. As they are trying to stop themselves, they can get easily embarrassed if they are found to be sucking their thumb again.

Keeping It Low Key.
We have found it best not to make public announcements about the child not sucking their thumb any more etc. We work on breaking the habit as a family and don’t want the child to feel overwhelmed by comments from everyone else. (Although writing about it on your blog would probably be considered to be pretty public!!!!)

So Possum has three nights left where she can suck her thumb to get herself off to sleep. She will still have her special blanket, but I will anticipate that for the first few nights Possum will have trouble getting to sleep without the thumb as she breaks the habit (this happened with her brothers). Extra patience from mum and dad will be required to help her through this!

What has been your experience with thumbsucking?