Thumb Sucking

About three or so weeks ago, the small one discovered his thumbs. They are now his best friends.

The Upsides to Thumb Sucking
As would be the parent lingo, the child can now self sooth. In normal people speak, this means that when we put him to bed at night he can often get himself to sleep by sucking his thumbs in lieu of a pacifier (which has the added bonus that I don’t have to play the oh-crap-grab-the-pacifier-before-he-rolls-his-face-onto-it-and-wakes-himself-up-again game every night). Also, it’s really cute.

The Downside
The thumb is proving to be such a steadfast companion that the small one seems to forget that he needs to tell me when he’s hungry. As in, hmmm I just woke up and I really want to suck on something and there’s no nipple in sight so HELLO THUMB! It really just means his hunger cues (more parent lingo, sorry) are more subtle. As in, I can’t just wait until he screams. Instead, if it’s about the time when he should next be hungry and he’s sucking his thumb (often with his eyes closed so you don’t really know if he’s awake – he usually is), I just go and put a hand on his head and if the eyes pop open or the sucking becomes more vigorous, it must be lunch time.

Easy enough, right? Well, it becomes more difficult when he’s sucking his thumb and it seems rather early to be hungry again. As I’m still new to this development, and on some deep ancestral level I’m a little old Italian mama who is constantly convinced her child needs to eat more despite his enormity, I err on the side of caution (aka overmothering), bring the babe to boob and if he won’t take it, I know he and the thumb were just hanging out, no biggie.

The most complicated version of this is the middle of the night thumb sucking. We have been doing remarkably well with the whole sleep thing, so he only wakes up once in the middle of the night. Lately though, I sometimes hear him sucking his thumb at 1 AM (early for him in terms of waking up), but it never progresses to him vocalizing and definitely not crying, so instead of going into his room, I just lay in bed, awake, listening to the baby monitor to make sure he’s okay, and usually after 10 minutes or so he’s totally quiet again and I can fall back to sleep. This repeats again around 3 or 4 AM, and sometimes it progresses into crying but often it just turns into some mild cooing, so while I usually go in anyway and feed and change him, I don’t know that this is necessary anymore. One night this week I waited this suck-fest out and he fell back to sleep, meaning he ended up staying down from 7 to 7, the twelve hour dream! And he even seemed fine the next day, not crazy amounts of extra nursing or anything. And while this is awesome, I’m still a bit nervous about eliminating the remaining middle of the night feeding, as it just seems so soon for him to be sleeping 12 hours straight – especially as he is still waking up, but just not crying anymore. And I don’t want to misinterpret this whole thumb sucking thing as my selfish chance to sleep until 7 AM. But I also don’t want to be the only reason the 4 AM feeding remains part of our repertoire.

Any thoughts?


One Response to “Thumb Sucking”

  1. Mama Marathon Says:

    My oldest (now 3) found his thumb at exactly 12 weeks. He slept through the night for the first time that night! Don’t wake a sleeping baby. He’ll make up for his nutritional needs during the day. If he really does need that 4am feeding, the novelty of the thumb will wear off soon.

    Enjoy your happy thumbsucker – they are the best!

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