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Monday, April 5, 2010

This is a sucking free zone!

Julian began sucking his thumb at six months old. We had only used a pacifier in the first couple months of his life (What a Sucker! post from 2007). I tried to reintroduce it when I saw his preference for sucking his thumb, but by that point it was too late. It may have been the beginning of a habit, but it was cute and an effective way of calming himself.
Three years later, Stephen and I were struggling to help him break his habit. My pediatrician told me just to wait until he entered school at which time he would be teased enough to stop his habit. I had been told by more than one thumb sucker that this might work during the day, but it wasn't a great deterrent for bedtime. We had tried the no bite polish, tying a string around his thumb as a reminder, and sending him to the corner when we discovered his thumb in his mouth. We were also explaining to him that sucking was a way for babies to comfort themselves, and that, now that he was a big boy, he needed to find other ways to comfort himself. He understood, but it wasn't motivation enough to get him to stop.
I mentioned in a previous blog post that one day not so long ago, he accidentally cut his precious thumb, had to have a band-aid, and decided not to suck while the bandaid was in place. When I noticed this, we continued to put a band aid on his thumb for 21 days to help him kick the habit. It worked! I've only see him suck his thumb once in the last month. He was in a deep sleep and it must have found its way into his mouth subconsciously.
After my experience with my little thumb sucker, I decided to use a pacifier with Schroeder. Instead of taking the paci away around the third month, I pushed it on him. It takes a baby awhile to get the hang of keeping it in their mouth, and I found you have to be kind of persistent. My thoughts were a pacifier would be easier to take away than a thumb would be to cut off. The pacifier was wonderful in some ways. It helped Schroeder easily transition from sleeping swaddled to sleeping free in a crib. His naps were a breeze. Bedtime was heaven. Around the 4 or 5 month mark, I stopped timing my nursing sessions expecting Schroeder to be more active in letting me know when he was hungry. Before, I was timing them every 3 hours. He isn't a demanding child, and he became even less so with a pacifier in his mouth. This resulted in him nursing fewer times during the day which led my milk supply to diminish. He stopped gaining weight between the 4 and 6 month mark. Once we figured this out, we were able to demand that he eat more, which he did. He began gaining weight again.
Around the nine month mark, I began to contemplate how long I should use the pacifier. I would think that by a year we should be past the point when thumb sucking might begin. I started to ask myself, "At what age would a child with a pacifier in its mouth inspire me to roll my eyes?" It just seems so silly to me for a child who is talking to have an object in there mouth. An object that they don't really need. An object that they just like. And Schroeder really liked his. If he was fussy or tired, it would immediately help him relax and lay down wherever we were. It was an easy tool. And what is really wrong with easy?
At the same time, I knew the longer I let him like it, the more he would grow to love it and the harder it would be to take away. So on the Thursday before his birtday, I layed him down for a nap and neglected to give it to him. He cried for 20 minutes and then reluctantly fell asleep. This happened several more days, but then he started to get used to it.
And now our home is a sucking free zone, at least until Maggie Lu joins us in August. I'm thinking we will do the pacifier route again, and this time, hopefully, I'll be aware of and avoid the pitfalls that pacifiers can bring.

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