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Jane Yee: Suck on this

Thumbsucker
Jane Yee
NO BIGGIE: It is worth making a big fuss over thumb sucking?

It would appear we have a thumb sucker, and you know what? I'm okay with it.

Sure, I understand that long term thumb sucking can lead to dental problems, but apparently something like three-quarters of all babies under the age of one suck their thumbs or fingers - this is par for the course so I'm certainly not hitting the panic button just yet.

Heck, I'm not even hovering over the panic button because it turns out of the kids who are still sucking away after the age of one, most drop the habit sometime between two and four years old. Even if a child continues to suck his or her thumb past this point it's not guaranteed that they'll have orthodontic issues.

How do I know? From first-hand experience, because I was a thumb sucker myself.

I guess I started sucking my thumb as a baby, I can't be certain because funnily enough I can't remember my infant years very clearly, however I do recall that it continued right through to the age of twelve. Twelve! I know, obviously my mother didn't love me otherwise she would never have let me suck my thumb for that long! In actual fact, my mother loved me very much and she was also smart enough to know that it wasn't about 'letting' me suck my thumb - she kinda didn't have any say in the matter. I was an incredibly stubborn kid and she knew if she tried to get me to stop I'd only dig my heels in and stick that thumb even further into my mouth.

To be fair I didn't suck my thumb in public, it's not like I sat in class munching away on it. No, my dirty little secret only took effect in the comfort of my own home when I was tired or upset, because I guess I needed comforting.

Still, twelve years is a long time to nurse a habit, so how did my teeth fare with all this? Fortunately, there were no ill effects on my pearly whites. Not only did I not need braces, I've never had so much as a filling. Now that's not to say that Victor will be so lucky, I know, but it does help me put things into perspective. I don't want to be getting stressed and making life unnecessarily difficult for both my son and myself when he's just a wee baby out of fear of something that may never happen. Goodness knows there's enough to worry about, what with increased cortisone levels when he cries, the risk of obesity by feeding him purees instead of practicing baby-led weaning, irreparably damaging his brain by letting Kayne from Kidzone entertain him for five minutes here and there while I heat up his dinner...

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You guys, from where I sit, being a little baby who is unable to fully articulate his concerns appears to be pretty stressful at times, so if my son wants to comfort himself by sucking his thumb I'm not going to stop him. If he's still doing it when he's five, then we'll address the situation and look at ways to help him break the habit. For now though, well, babies aren't exactly known for their ability to follow instruction, so there's little sense in trying to do anything about it at this point.  

Besides, it helps him self-settle during the night, and I'm definitely not messing with that.

What has your experience been with thumb sucking - did you do it yourself? Do you have a child who sucks his or her thumb? And if so, does it concern you or are you relaxed about it?

- Essential Mums

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