Hi there, welcome to this week's video blog. Today I wanted to talk about the issue of sucking the thumb. I get a lot of emails from people who have started the Sleep Sense program. Their question is, "Well, I've noticed she's started putting her thumb in her mouth as her way of self soothing. I don't know if I should be encouraging it, discouraging it, what should I do"?
Well, there will be people who disagree with me on this one, but I'm just going to say what I think regardless. Babies who discover their thumb turn into very good sleepers, because they have the ability to self sooth and it's attached to them. It's not lost in the crib. It's not reliant on mother nursing or bottles in the mouth or anything else. It's independent in the sense that it belongs to them, they know how to use it, and they use it well.
The truth of the matter is that most children who develop a self soothing strategy that involves a finger or a thumb only use it in those few minutes it takes to get from one stage into the next. You're awake, you're getting sleepy, you're ready for sleep to come, the thumb goes in, minute or two later, they're fast asleep, thumb comes out.
You cannot keep your thumb in through all your sleep cycles. It's absolutely impossible. It's not like they're in there with their thumb in their mouth all night long. When they have a little brief wake in the night, they might use it again for that minute or two it takes to get back in, and that's it.
Occasionally, it becomes a long lingering problem. Everybody knows a 12 year old who still sucks their thumb [laughs] or some horror story like that about thumb sucking. The truth is there are definitely strategies. If you notice your child's lingering a little too long with it, we can curb it with behavior management.
Come to me, I have an article for you, I will give it to you, on how to break the habit of thumb sucking.
You can even do it subtlety. If you notice your toddler sticking it in there when she is watching TV or in the car, you can just gently remove it away and maybe replace it with something else to be coupled, water or a little bit of a snack. You can ease out of it just with a little bit of redirecting. I don't want you to worry too much about it.
The other thing people always say is, "Well, if I give them a pacifier instead, then I can take the pacifier away. I have the power over that." Do you want to know a little secret that lots of parents don't tell you? Even though they tell themselves they're going to take it away, they don't. They don't. [laughs]
I cannot tell you how many people have confessed to me that their five year old still sleeps with the soother, because it's your child's sleep strategy. It's like if you sleep with a pillow every night, are you, all of a sudden, going to decide, or somebody else is going to decide, that I'm taking it away from you tonight?
It's emotional. It causes the child emotional distress. It causes the parent emotional distress, so they don't do it. They just dance around it and say, "Oh well, it's OK, it's OK, it's OK," and they don't do it. That is a problem as well, using a pacifier to sleep. It's not an appropriate way to sleep through the night. It gets lost, they've got to find it. They put 20 in the crib, or in the bed with them to hope that they find one in the middle of the night. That's not a good strategy for becoming an excellent sleeper.
Keep that in mind. Don't panic. Don't let your mother in law tell you, you should put mitts on her, or try to discourage it. Again, like I said, most babies don't use it long term, nor do they all day long have a thumb stuck in their mouth. Just chill about it and let it happen. Again, like I said, if it does become a long, lingering habit, I'll help you get rid of it.
OK? All right, I hope that put your mind at ease a little bit. Like always, sleep well.