Thursday, January 24, 2008

So Soothe Me!

They say there's a sucker born every minute. I don't know about that, but there were certainly two born in our household.

When you've got a couple of suckers on your watch, what do you do? Well, you end up jumping into the fray of the ongoing Mommy-battle: The Thumb, or The Soother? In one corner, we have The Thumb. It's all natural, can't be lost (we hope), the first thing that babies explore and the go-to choice for sucking. In the other corner, we have The Soother. You lose them constantly, have to disinfect them repeatedly, babies have to learn how to keep them in their mouths, BUT they are theoretically easier to get rid of later on, and will supposedly cause less dental problems down the line.

The Boy was a finger-sucker from very early on. Ensconced in the blissful two-on-one days of new parenting, we allowed it. Encouraged it even. I (all too vividly) recall hours of sitting on a couch with a (clean) finger stuck in his mouth. You couldn't go anywhere or do anything, but whatever. He eventually found his own thumb, and hasn't looked back since. For me, it's not all the big a deal. I sucked my thumb until I was five. My parents tried to get me to stop, but the more they harassed me, the harder I sucked. I just did it behind their backs. I did stop, eventually, but it was on my own time. On my own terms.

You'd be surprised at how much flak we get from the public, though. Daycare teachers have made passing comments about it. Nothing offense, but still. The ladies who run the local fruit market chastise the Boy when he sucks his thumb. I let that go, but it's a struggle. Total strangers have actually reached into my stroller and pulled the still wet thumb from his mouth. That made me mad. Now that he's three, we're trying to gently discourage him from the thumb-sucking. From everything I've read though, it isn't a real problem dental-wise till they're four or five.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that the Little Guy is a sucker too. If anything, he a bigger sucker than his brother. I've checked to make sure he's not hungry. He just wants to suck. A lot. And he gets mighty angry if he can't. Gone are the days, though, when we can leisurely sit and, well, give the Little Guy the finger. And you can't get anything done at all. Not. One. Thing. I'm not trying to be a Super Mom here, either. There are just some things that I have to do. Want to get the Boy dressed. SCREAM! Want to make the Boy some breakfast? SCREAM! Want to give the Boy a bath? SCREAM! Want to feed, dress or bathe myself? SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREAM! And then just to change things up a little, he will SCREAM A LITTLE LOUDER!!!

So this time around, we are trying to introduce the Soother. The Boy didn't take to it at all, but we only made half-hearted attempts really. This time, the Soother is a survival mechanism. I've always been slightly opposed to soothers though. I've seen some parents use it to shut their kids up, instead of the intended purpose of soothing a child who really doesn't want anything else than to suck. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and it stuck with me. It's all too easy to offer the kid the soother anytime he cries, rather than seeing what's actually wrong first. In fact, I'm already worried that I've fallen into that trap. But I simply don't know what else to do. It's impossible to function normally with an underscoring of SCREAMING every time you have to do necessary household tasks. So far, it's helped a bit, but the Little Guy is having difficulty keeping it in his mouth.

How do you feel about Soothers vs Thumbs? Is one better than the other? Is one wrong, and one right? And how in the heck do you get the kid to keep the pacifier in his mouth if sucking is what he truly wants to do?? I don't know if I'm doing the right/best/smart thing here, I'm just doing what I can to get through the day. I may regret it later. Let's just hope that the "later" is a long time coming.

And now I'm going to go and try to dry out my water-logged finger.


Anonymous said...

THUMBS all the way! (Easy for me to say -- Zach gave it up at a year old and Ben just sucks on his blankie which needs to be washed every 12 hours.)

It is a myth that it is bad for their teeth. Studies have shown that the thrust of the tongue has much more to do with the way their teeth look than whether they suck their thumbs. To me, it seems wrong to make a kid stop before he is ready simply because society tells him to grow up. He'll have years to be a grown up.

I say deck the next person who pulls his thumb out of his mouth.


Anonymous said...

P.S. I totally didn't mean to sound judgmental of you. I think you are doing just fine letting them do what they like. But, anyone who tells you that it is better to suck on plastic than skin is seriously smoking something. Which is much worse than sucking something.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I totally didn't mean to sound judgmental of you. I think you are doing just fine letting them do what they like. But, anyone who tells you that it is better to suck on plastic than skin is seriously smoking something. Which is much worse than sucking something.

Tracey said...

I am a full-on pacifier person. Mainly because I felt I had SOME control over the use of it. You can't take away their thumb, as you said... But truly? Anything to get a kid to be quiet, try new situations, and go to bed easily is worth whatever flak other idiots may give you. Plus? These are YOUR KIDS. They can do whatever screwy stuff they want to with THEIR KIDS.

And definitely freak on the next person to touch your kid's thumb. Get a rant ready, or something, cuz that's incredibly rude. I mean, I wouldn't walk up to a stranger and pop their pimple just because I thought it was time for it to go, you know? EWwww.

bren j. said...

Gee, this describes The First Weeks around here to a T. I really didn't want to use a soother, but got sick of using my finger too and the thumb...well....I'm all for soothers because eventually, you can get rid of them (Oops! Oh Honey, your last soother just fell down the manhole...); fingers on the other hand...Well, Timmy *wields sharp knife* it's been long enough with that thumb. Let's see it!
In all seriousness, the screaming/needing to suck drove me crazy. It was the Husband and my Mom that finally got the LG to take a soother (magic, they were, magic). I think for the first while, they held the soother there so that she knew that it was providing 'relief.' Now she can put it in/pull it out at her leisure - we just got one of those clips that keeps it attached to her clothes (except when she's sleeping of course).

I was worried about what people would think about the soother (my La Leche League group in particular), but now that I realize how well it works and I know I'm not being neglectful, I say screw it! Who cares what they think!?

Good luck with YOUR decision.

Mimi said...

My mom gave Munchkin a soother when she was **nine months old**. And all of a sudden, we could put her down for naps, we could put to bed at night, we could calm her down on long car rides or in stressful situations. It was like a miracle.

Now she's 19 mos, and she really only uses it a bedtime and in the car, or when she's having a meltdown. It's a self-soothing mechanism for her, and I'm incredibly grateful for it.

bubandpie said...

Neither of my babies ever showed the slightest interest in their thumbs. My theory is that it's a genetic trait - either your baby is a thumb-sucker or he's not. If he is, then MAYBE you can divert him to a soother, but if he's not, withholding the soother will not suddenly make him suck his thumb. And babies do need to suck, even the ones who aren't genetically programmed to find their thumbs. So if it's a choice between 24-hour-boob-access and a soother? Yeah, I'll take the soother.

ewe are here said...

Afraid I can't help on this one... neither of my boys showed any interest in sucking their thumbs, and we cut off the minimal dummy-usage we had at 3 months so they wouldn't miss them.

cinnamon gurl said...

I feel SO guilty that I thrust the soother onto Swee'pea. But my arm was falling asleep at night keeping my pinkie in his mouth and I really needed some peace. I wish I'd been able to withstand the screaming until he found his thumb because I hate that he's sucking rubber so much. And strangers or acquaintances comment on his soother too, and have sometimes pulled it out too.

I was a thumb sucker too and I would have preferred Swee'pea to suck his thumb because then I don't need to get up in the night to replace. I still get woken to "Doodoo!!"

Just yesterday on flickr someone had a confession stream of discussion and two people confessed to being adult thumbsuckers. And I kept it a secret that I sucked my thumb until I was 16 (when I got a bionator to correct my bite).

Beck said...

We're a soother family - they're easier to get rid of later on, while thumbs tend to hang around.

Don Mills Diva said...

My son never took to either but everyone always told me "at least you can take a soother away from them..."

Anonymous said...

Boy #1 was not into the soother or the thumb. He was all about the boob. 2 hour feeding sessions were not unknown.

Lesson learned;boy #2 was soothered. At 8 months we took it away. And there in lies the beauty of the soother - a finite end date. No negotiations. No nagging. Plus he was a winter baby and his hands were covered in mitts constantly so the thumb wasn't really an option.

And I may be in the minority here: but thumb sucking kids look really cute. No. Honest. It looks sweetly childlike and natural.

KC said...

Our daughter couldn't keep the pacifier in her mouth...but did learn to suck her fingers- no thumb mind you. Great because she could soothe herself to sleep without worry that she'd lose her fingers at night. Plus, she lost the habit naturally in no time.

petite gourmand said...

whatever works.

but for us it was the soother.
we took it away on her first birthday.
nice birthday present huh?
young enough to adapt without too much drama.
She barely noticed when it was gone.
it was a life saver when she was an infant though.
I always packed a spare.

something blue said...

My girls were just not that into it. That being sucking on soothers or thumbs. The only time they ask for a soother is when they are playing baby.

It's hard to believe a stranger would be so aggressively judgmental in pulling out a child's thumb from his mouth but I have seen people do this. It would make me furious.

Kyla said...

I think it is up to the kiddo. My kids never took to them, but they weren't thumb suckers either. But if either of them had, I wouldn't have had a problem with it, in fact, it probably would have been helpful for KayTar's oral tone...but we didn't know about that back then.

Mad Hatter said...

Miss M would have none of it. No thumb. No soother. I still believe that I am her # 1 pacifier and, frankly, it wears me down and pisses me off. What I wouldn't have given to have something to quiet her on 6 hour flights and the like. But no. She simply would not.

She does have a love-y, though. Her Ellas and she is just starting to limit her dependence on those a wee bit.

kittenpie said...

To me, it's up to the baby. If they are into thumbs, they are into thumbs, not much you can do one way or another.

We used a soother, and I quite liked it because she could have it when she wanted, but I agree, I do hate seeing people jam them into their child's mouth when their child isn't interested or just wants to talk or something. It doesn't have to be that way, as long as you respect your child, and I think that you do. The nice thing was that the weaning off it was not too tough, and I do see that as a downside of the thumb. Still, I don't see many older kids still sucking them, either.

the dragonfly said...

I didn't have much of an opinion before the Little Mister was born, except that I wasn't going to use a pacifier to "shut my kid up". I know babies need to suck, and I didn't have a problem with him sucking his thumb or a paci. It turned out that he wanted his thumb but got very frustrated when he couldn't get it to his mouth (this started when he was just a few days old!) we bought a paci. He actually didn't want it much until he was between two and three months old, and then he only wanted when he was sleepy. Now that he's 7 months old he only gets it when he's in his crib...and he doesn't seem to miss it during the rest of the day. So I guess it works out okay. :)

Slightly related: my mother-in-law calls a pacifier a "plug". This infuriates me. "Give him his plug." she says. Over and over I explain how horrible that sounds, that I'm not "plugging him up" when I give it to him, that I don't give it to him whenever he cries, that I give it to him because it soothes him. She laughs when I ask her nicely to not call it that, and five minutes later she does it again.


bren j. said...

Re: the Linkyness - Jenn told me just to cut and paste and it worked! Hooray for easiness! Boo for exhaustion!

Mac and Cheese said...

Do whatever works for you - don't worry about right or wrong. It's all good if everyone is happy.

Strangers pull your son's thumb out of his mouth?????

Susanne said...

Well, I never would have thought before but I actually trained my son to take the pacifier. Because otherwise he would have wanted me to be his soother and that's a bit demanding over time.

While you might want to use a pacifier just because it's convenient, I doubt that a hungry child can be comforted by a pacifier for more than two seconds.

What I don't like is those children who have it in their mouth constantly until they have a hard time to learn how to speak.

MaryP said...

Of my three, only one was a tremendous sucker. (Except on the breast: there, they were all three champions.) She had a soother.

As a pretty relaxed daycare provider, given the choice between soother and thumb? Soother, for the reasons you noted: it's easier on the dental work, it's easier to get rid of when the time comes. It's usually the 'getting rid of' part that matters most to most parents.

How to get them to keep it in? The trick is to pull, not push. You push it in, he'll resist, turning his head, thrusting his tongue. Pulling on it teaches him to suck to keep it in.

Put it in his mouth; after a five second or so, pull on it gently. Sit close to hand, and every ten seconds or so, pull on it again. Do that a few times a day for a day or two. That should do the trick!

painted maypole said...

oy. i think you are just fine. MQ wasn't a sucker at all, so this was never an issue for us.

Mary G said...

I could have written this. My first was a finger sucker; the second got a soother to save my eardrums. I think both are just fine, thank you, and anyone who interfered or criticized got The Look. Or the kid, if it was a grandmother. My kids' teeth are just fine also.
I confess to dipping the soother in corn syrup a few times. Desperation.
Backing you 110 percent.