July 14, 2009
It has never bothered me that three of my daughters are dedicated thumb suckers. For whatever reason, Roo has never ever been interested in sucking her thumb, but her sisters pop their thumbs in their mouths at the first sign of stress or sleepiness. My thought has always been "well, they've found a way to self-soothe." I've never bought into the notion that they're messing up their teeth, since these teeth will eventually fall out. Plus, Hubby and I both needed braces and know all four of our girls will, too. Even my most recent edition of Parents magazine quoted a doctor who said thumb sucking is a natural reflex which most children will give up before age four.
So, here we are approaching our 4th birthday and our dentist says it's time to ditch the thumbs. Why? It's actually pretty interesting. According to our dentist, the way your tongue sits in your mouth affects your palette. As a child, when your palette is still developing, your tongue helps spread the roof of your mouth. When a child sucks her thumb, she's affecting where her tongue sits in her mouth and her palette may not spread/develop the way it should. Considering two of my daughters have "severe crowding" of their teeth, well, they need those palettes to spread. (Do you remember the kids in school who talked about having to wear a "bridge"? It was some medieval contraption in the roof of their mouth involving a key. Every night they had to turn the key to spread their palette. Yeah, not something I really want my girls to suffer through, although Hubby claims it didn't hurt.)
Our dentist appointment was last week. Since then I've really been trying to work with Cakes, Tortilla and Sue-Sue to encourage them to give up the thumb. It's easier said than done. The first day they were really good about taking their thumbs out of their mouth with a gentle reminder. By the time I put them to bed, though, you could tell what a challenge the day had been. As soon as they closed their eyes, their thumbs were firmly positioned in their mouths. The other day Cakes was sitting next to me on the couch. When I casually reminded her to take her thumb out of her mouth she moved. I found her sitting on the floor next to the couch, covertly sucking her thumb. Great, now I've created "closet thumb suckers."
It's not going to be an easy habit to break. We'll keep working on it and eventually we'll be a thumb-free family.