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Thumb sucking

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  • Thumb sucking

    Hi Linda,

    I read in the book about thumb sucking being an indication that attachment needs weren't met during early years. What if you have met the attachment process but your child had medical conditions such as reflux due to food allergies that you were trying to research what allergies? Do you believe that this could cause thumb sucking as well to help ease the pain?

  • #2
    Thumb sucking isn't bad --- can indicate a lot of things.

    Interesting question. I haven't looked for the passage but I imagine I treated that as a gentle suggestion of a possible relationship because I am never about telling people what's right or wrong or what's a sign you did it wrong, etc. Still, we do see more thumb sucking in children who've maybe not gotten as much nurturing nursing time with mom or other affectionate behaviors that increase security and satisfaction.

    Yes, to your question about allergies. Suckling at the breast is shown to provide quite a bit of pain relief as well as comforting. Pacifier sucking is shown to also provide some pain relief and comforting, but to a lesser degree. Children with food allergies will generally have greater needs for comforting as there's always quite a learning curve to finding what foods offend and finding where those might be hidden more secretly.


    • #3
      More on sucking

      It's quite nice that babies have that thumb there as a back-up. There are moms who have nipple infections and want to really restrict suckling time down to bare nutritional needs. It can be hard to provide comfort nursing to baby when it's driving mom up the wall. Many moms will find a pacifier will help fill in but some moms encourage, or babies find, the thumb. Moms can be busy with siblings or working and some higher-need little ones might find their thumb to be a good filler while awaiting the real thing.

      Thumbs are nice because they're always there and they don't drop and roll under the car seat. Some moms are more concerned about thumb use because a pacifier might be easier to wean from.

      So, back to the original comment in my book, typically, one might just observe less thumb sucking at their attachment parenting playgroups, especially in toddlers and above, than they would at a more mainstream event. Sounds so judgmental to try to say that in any way doesn't it.... but it's just an observation and something that might be added to the pile of potential indicators of security and attachment.


      • #4
        My 11 week old just started sucking his thumb this past week. We had a routine check up at the pediatrician one week ago and since then he has been sucking his thumb. He is our first child; I stay home with him full-time and try to be aware of his needs as much as possible and respond accordingly. He does not suck his thumb all the time, but he consistently sucks his thumb any time I put him down (i.e. washing hands after a diaper change). I do breastfeed. He seems to be a very efficient eater and it is difficult (at least during the daytime/waking hours) to get him to suckle and be comforted at my breast or stay near my breast for longer than 10 minutes. I'm definitely not giving up on AP, but I feel like I have failed to an extent with his sudden thumb sucking. Do you have any suggestions or insight? (I'm happy to provide more information if needed.)


        • #5
          Sometimes babies just find their thumbs and realize they like it. You are not a failure because your baby has found something he likes.

          My oldest had intense sucking needs, I nursed him all the time, but he would be torn between wanting to nurse and wanting to play. I gave him a pacifier and then he could leave me to explore his world safely within my presence without having to be on me. When he wanted to nurse, he came over. If what he truly wanted was to BF, the pacifier could never take its place.

          With ds2, his needs were less but sometimes he wanted to just suck and so when I would nurse him, he'd get very upset when the milk came out, because he was only looking to suck, not eat. I gave him a pacifier occassionally, but I believe if he had been able to find his own thumb, he may have been happier.

          My point is that every child is different. If there is a problem with your attachment, it will show up in many more ways than just thumb sucking. You sound like an incredibly conscious mother and should be confident in your parenting skills.


          • #6
            I couldn't have said it better.

            Every baby is different and every baby's needs are different and finding the thumb is a very natural occurrence, not to be worried about and definitely not to feel any smidge of failure about. If there are X number of behaviors that could suggest attachment/security, and X factors that might suggest/be sometimes related to less security, we're going to see some of both, a different set in every AP child.


            • #7
              Self Comforting behaviors

              My son had a self-comforting behavior as well. I was so lucky to receive a certain piece of advice in my first issue of LLLI's New Beginnings after my son was born. I was one who just could not stand baby's twizzling of the other nipple while breastfeeding, yaKnoWhatImean? I don't recall the other suggestions offered but the one that worked well for me was to take those little fingers and insert them into baby's own bellybutton. Soon the bellybutton became very important to my son and refused to ever wear another onesie. When at age two he toddled up onto a stage to dance with a group of skirt-tossing Senioritas, he became suddenly quite self-conscious and "insecure" feeling when people started to laugh. Rather than leaving the stage, he calmly pulled up his shirt and inserted finger. It did have a down-side though. The private school near our home required shirts to be tucked in and when Kindergarten came, it was a NO way.


              • #8
                Thank you both for your wisdom and encouragement.

                Dr. Palmer, I've really been enjoying your book. I picked it up a little late since I'm new to the forum and I haven't finished it yet. I'm learning so much from your research and enjoying the ease of reading it all! I also live in San Diego, if you do any local speaking engagements, I'd enjoy attending!