Our two year old, Hannah, is a thumb-sucker. She started this habit around the age of three months. She was a fussy baby in general, and she fought for awhile to find her thumb. And when she did, it calmed her a bit. She looked so cute sucking her left thumb while sleeping. And it stuck with her as she got older and less fussy. We never tried giving our girls a pacifier. I don’t really have anything against them, just one less thing to pack and remember in all our travels. At least with the thumb, you can’t forget to bring it with you!
In our time living among Arabs in different countries, we’ve noticed that they aren’t fond of babies putting anything in their mouths. Maybe that’s a generalization, but I’m sure there is good reason. Egypt, for example, is quite dirty and dusty outside, and so putting dirty little hands into little mouths isn’t a good idea. I, however, don’t think it’s a bad thing for them to put hands and chew toys in their mouths, as I believe it’s part of their development. At the same time, I really get grossed out by the combination of dirt and little hands in mouths.
And so Hannah has been a thumb-sucker for the last two years and has been told many times in two different countries, that she should not put her thumb in her mouth. She doesn’t generally heed the advice. When we first arrived in Egypt last summer, an acquaintance told us they knew of a woman who was still sucking her thumb when she got married. Therefore, Hannah should stop now! I am not too afraid that she will still be sucking her thumb when she is marrying age.
Some of our friends consistently ask why Hannah sucks her thumb or continue to tell Hannah to stop. Now that she is getting closer to 2½, we are also encouraging her not to suck her thumb at certain times. Emma was not a thumb-sucker, so I don’t have experience with breaking this habit, but one idea I’ve heard of involves limiting their thumb-sucking to nap and nighttimes. I like the idea and we are slowly beginning to put that idea into Hannah’s head. We are also telling her she cannot start preschool until she stops sucking her thumb during the day, which gives her until she is 2½. I think this may work, but only time will tell.
Presently, Hannah is sucking her thumb now more than a few months ago. I think it has something to do with the presence of a new little someone in our house. Hannah loves her sister, Layla, and the pictures below will attest to that. One of Hannah’s favorite activities right now is to lay next to Layla and just watch her, all the while, sucking her thumb. I’m not sure if Layla will learn from that! But, while Hannah loves her new baby sister, it is also a big change for her, and has brought with it some insecurity which her thumb helps her replace. So for now, I don’t mind her using her thumb for some extra comfort. But as she gets more and more love from us, and her new sister, I hope that she can gradually let go of her thumb.
Update: Hannah got a cut on the thumb yesterday, and has had a band-aid since, which has kept her thumb out of her mouth. She has seemed a bit whiny since then, suggesting that she has lost, at least temporarily, her coping mechanism. We may just extend the lifespan of this band-aid, though, and see if she can drop the habit before it comes off.