Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thumb Sucking

As I was slicing tomatoes today, I nicked my thumb. When I put it in my mouth I began to wonder whether today’s parents are concerned about thumb sucking. It seems as if parents’ concerns about this are not as worrisome as years ago. I can recall hearing my grandmother recount tales of cayenne pepper and other totally useless and sometimes cruel management of a toddler’s thumb sucking. Perhaps, I mused, parents are more knowledgeable concerning the needs of their babies and more knowledgeable about behavior that is normal in different developmental stages.
Why do babies suck their thumbs? Most likely the reasons are similar to why we, as adults, eat when we are not hungry, chew on the end of our pencil when we are thinking, enjoy sipping a glass of wine or beer when we want to relax, and have coffee when we want to feel energized.
We find ways of meeting our sensory needs with these little habits, just as babies meet their needs by sucking their thumb or pacifier, twirl their hair when tired, or rub a favorite fuzzy blanket. If we simply try to eliminate thumb-sucking behavior because it makes us uncomfortable, we are doomed to failure or doomed to see this behavior replaced with another sensory, comforting device.
Developmentally, the baby should find ways of soothing themselves and if thumb sucking concerns you, I would only offer this bit developmental wisdom: your child will not continue thumb sucking when they go off to college or get their first job or get married.

In a milkweed cradle
Soft and warm
Baby seeds are hiding
Safe from harm
Open wide the cradle
Hold it up high
Come on wind
Help them fly!

Cup hands to show milkweed pod, peek into cupped hand to ‘see’ seeds. Open cupped hands, raise hands, and blow. Do this in the fall, showing children the milkweed pods.  Save the empty pods to make lovely tree ornaments or bird feeders

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