Hello, my name is Mrs. Cowgirl and I am a former pacifier addict.
The story goes that I from the time I was born until the time I was two and a half, I had a pacifier in my mouth any time I wasn’t eating. In fact, many of my baby pics feature me and my faithful pacifier. This was way before those fancy clips, so my parents tied my pacifier on a Strawberry Shortcake shoelace and I wore it as a necklace every day. The story also goes that my parents tried really hard to break me of my pacifier addiction after I turned two. They tried hiding it; rubbing some hot sauce on it (apparently, that really backfired because I ended up loving hot sauce — still do!); telling me that I was a big girl and I didn’t need it, etc…all to no avail. When my parents planned a ski trip for our little family, they tried a new tactic. They told me I could leave the pacifier at home and join them, or keep it and stay with my grandparents for the weekend, because pacifiers were not allowed on the slopes. The final bit of the story goes that I chucked that pacifier on the ground and never looked back. And the pictures of two year-old me on skis make it seem like I never had any second thoughts.
Well, as fate would have it, I ended up with a little suck-addict myself. Except he sucks his fingers. And you can’t exactly leave fingers behind on a ski trip.
According to his foster mom, Lil’ CB sucked his middle and ring fingers on his right hand since he was a wee little thing. She told us that she tried to get him to stop, but she just couldn’t, those fingers would always find their way into his mouth. Some of the photos we received from Korea while we were waiting for him showed Lil’ CB in his finger-sucking glory:
At first we thought it was really cute. I would say, “Aww, it’s like he’s signing ‘I love you’!” or “Look, it’s almost like he’s saying ‘Rock on’!” And in addition to being cute, it was actually quite functional for Lil’ CB to suck his fingers because it helped him self-soothe and put himself to sleep, which was extra helpful when he was grieving and we were transitioning home.
But as Lil’ CB grew older and became more active, I felt it necessary to try and wean him off his fingers for a number of reasons:
1. Hygiene: it just wasn’t sanitary to have his fingers in and out of his mouth, especially given all the things he was touching throughout the day whether we were at home or at the playground or at the mall…yuck! And, since Lil’ CB exclusively sucks his right fingers and also shows right-hand dominance, he was literally touching EVERYTHING with those fingers.
2. The Need for Orthodontia: Cha-ching! I could just hear the bills for braces stacking up. And I could start to see the shift in Lil’ CB’s teeth from sucking his fingers. A dentist friend of ours actually told us that if Lil’ CB was going to suck his fingers, it was good thing he sucked the ones he did. According to him, the middle and ring fingers are the least “offensive” fingers to the hard palate and roof of your mouth; the most offensive being the index finger pointed upwards, followed by the thumb. A mild yay to Lil’ CB for not sucking those fingers.
3. Smelly and Scraggly Fingers: You can imagine what fingers that have been in and out of a toddler’s mouth smell like. If you can’t imagine, I’ll tell you: they smell FOUL. Plus, the nails on his middle and ring fingers became warped from the excessive sucking. Yuck and YUCK!
I started looking into ways and methods for helping Lil’ CB to stop sucking, and considered a few crazy ideas beyond just coaxing him with my sweet words (haha). A friend recommended this thumb-sucking deterrent that works like nail polish. I also found this wild Fingerguard contraption that was highly reviewed and recommended (albeit super pricey and nonreturnable) online:
I almost bought the deterrent treatment, but after talking with former thumb/finger suckers, I decided to steer away from heavily pushing the issue. Several friends told me that they hated being pressured to stop sucking their thumb or fingers and would hide and suck in secret well into their late elementary years even though they stopped sucking in front of their parents. They all shared fond memories of sucking their fingers and how soothing it was versus how traumatic it was when forced to stop. I also read in several places that many children stop sucking on their own by age 4, if not 5 (which seemed reasonably true considering I’ve only ever taught one student who still sucked her thumb in Kindergarten!).
Instead of trying to outright stop the finger sucking, we moved to trying to limit it, especially after Lil’ CB turned 3. We know that he still uses finger sucking to self-soothe and fall asleep, so he can suck his fingers in bed or when he’s tired. However, Lil’ CB will suck his fingers all the livelong day so long as his hands are not occupied. So, if he’s about to put those fingers in his mouth, we’ll try to distract him with something else to keep his hands busy. We’ve also told him that he can’t suck his fingers until after he’s washed his hands if he has been outside or playing with something messy. We’ve made some gradual progress and we’ll revisit the issue as necessary, but I really am hoping he’ll outgrow it himself within the next year…and then perhaps the nightmares of Lil’ CB sucking his fingers in his senior portraits will stop.
But, for now, he’s happy to keep on sucking.
Sucking his fingers and holding his lovey (so he can smell it) all with one hand so he can shield himself from the sun with the other.What can I say? He’s great at multitasking! ;)
Is your LO a thumb or finger sucker? How do you feel about it?