My youngest daughter is a thumb sucker. I'm not ready to say "was" yet, but I'm thinking I might be able to soon, maybe. Zoe was a thumb sucker from the beginning. I could not get her to ever take a pacifier, but her thumb worked wonders. She was a good sleeper from the beginning, also. Still is. I credit the thumb.
For the first three years, we only saw the thumb in her mouth when she was tired. The rest of the time it was on her hand next to her body, away from her mouth. Then somewhere between her 3rd and 4th birthday the thumb started finding her mouth more and more often. Watching TV - thumb in mouth, listening to a story - thumb in mouth, riding in van while taking brother and sister to school - thumb in mouth. My husband and I decided to take a page from my sister's parenting book (she had two thumb suckers) and instead of outright outlawing it, we told Zoe she could only suck her thumb while she was lying in her bed. She was allowed to go upstairs and suck her thumb if she wanted to, but she had to be in her bed when she did it. Well, that didn't really work. We reminded, cajoled, played games, pointed, pulled, etc. And the thumb would come out of her mouth, anywhere from 2 seconds to 2 minutes, but then it would be right back in place. To say our method wasn't working would be an understatement. We weren't sure what to do next.
So in March we took her to the dentist for her checkup. We had the nicest dental hygienist, super sweet chairside manner and lots of smiles and fun questions. Zoe was enjoying the attention and doing an amazing job of letting people poke around inside her mouth. When the dentist came in she ate up all his silly jokes and attention. When asked about whether she was a thumb sucker, I gave an emphatic "yes." Dr. J. said he could almost see a thumbprint on the roof of her mouth, which I wouldn't be surprised of at all considering the amount of time her thumb was spending in her mouth.
Then Dr. J. said something that I had no idea would have such a profound effect on Zoe. He told her that she really shouldn't suck her thumb. That's it. On the way home Zoe mentioned how she wasn't going to suck her thumb all the way home. And she didn't. Then the next day on the way home from taking the kids to school she said it was hard not to suck her thumb, but she didn't suck it. And honestly, I haven't had to remind her once since that dentist appointment to take her thumb out of her mouth.
If I had known this was all it would take to get her to stop sucking her thumb, I'd have taken her a long time ago. Who knew?