Monday, April 4, 2011


I was talking to a friend last week about how much I dislike helping my girls learn to "not suck" on their thumbs/fingers. I dislike it as much as I loved it when they were babies. Make sense?

The fact of the matter is, babies are wired to suck. (I can't think of any other way to say that but I realize how weird it sounds. I'm not being sarcastic or goofy. Just stating facts.) That's how they get their food. It's an instinct. Whether the food comes from the breast or a bottle is irrelevant. The vast majority of babies know what to do when presented with milk.

So here's my theory.

If babies don't get to suck as much as they want to while eating, they will find another outlet. If a baby takes forever to eat, they'll be less likely to suck their thumb or need a pacifier. If a baby eats very quickly, they'll be more likely to enjoy a thumb or pacifier.

If I take a quick tally of my own kids, it looks like this:

Thumb-suckers/very fast eaters (because of very fast let-down!) = 4

That's 4 for 4 in case you're not paying attention.

I can't remember all the details from my 11 nieces and nephews. One definitely didn't need either thumb or pacifier and ate for long periods of time. That fits the theory. Another needed a pacifier for a short time. I wonder if he ate for shorter periods during that time? But generally, he ate for long stretches of time so that still works for the most part. One niece used a pacifier. She finished her meals faster than her brothers who didn't need pacifiers. That fits too.

I realize there will always be anomalies in any theory. But even if someone blows it out of the water -- could this still be a practical theory? What do you think? What has been your experience with your kids?

If this holds true with enough people, I can chalk it up as one more thing I wish I'd known sooner....

The other that comes to mind most immediately is directly related. It's when I learned that babies don't LIKE or DISLIKE pacifiers, they have to LEARN to like them. And in relation to this, they have to need them, I guess. But if I had known both of these things combined, I could have kept at the pacifier to supplement the need to suck....Nowadays I wish I could take away their digits the way I could take away a pacifier. But then...hindsight IS always 20/20.

I'm also realizing this could be old news. It's not "my" theory. It's just my "I just realized this" and "do you think so too?" theory. Maybe there's some parenting book out there that touches on this very subject. I wouldn't be surprised. But it's news to me right now and I think it's kind of fascinating....


  1. Tiff said...
    All I know is that my thumb-sucker, CC, is already looking all buck-toothed.

    Bridget said...
    Both my girls were very fast nursers. The first used a pacifier until 5 months and then one day she just refused to take it and never would again (and didn't suck on her fingers either). The second is now 17 months and still takes a pacifier, but I only let her have it when sleeping or if we are out and about during her naptime (like when we're at church). And she doesn't suck on her fingers. So I don't know if that works with your theory or not because seriously they were both done nursing in about 10 minutes flat every time.
    Abby said...
    Tiff, I hear you. Autumn has a retainer/spacer right now to fix her top teeth. The dentist said there's really no way of KNOWING if it was the sucks all the same....hahahaha. That was really bad. Not even a good pun. :D

    Bridget, that works great with my theory actually! I'm not saying that they continue to suck for any particular length of time -- just that if they're fast nursers they're more likely to take a pacifier or suck on fingers. And yours both did! So that totally fits.
    jjstringham said...
    All my kids took the same bottles = same speed.

    Ryan refused pacifiers and didn't suck a thumb. My girls both took/take pacifiers.

    Your theory may still hold water though, my son may just be an anomaly. He is a weird kid after all. ;)
    Heidi said...
    None of mine were/are thumb suckers and they all acted like the pacifier was a torture device, but they would nurse constantly. I agree, babies need to suck, mine just seemed to think I was the comfort object of choice. Even with my fast let down, I think my hyperactive babies actually burned all of those calories up and still nursed for comfort. So mine were fast eaters in that I fire hosed them with let down, but mine were also marathon eaters and would hang out on the breast for an hour if I let them. I think that supports your theory? :)
    Lisa said...
    I've definitely heard that theory a lot. I have two fast eaters and two binky-loving boys, but Aaron isn't quite as attached to it as Jonathan, although he may even be a faster eater! Who knows. I was kind of mean with him, though, and tried to get him to learn to sleep without one, so I think that is why he isn't so dependent.
    Wendi said...
    I dunno. I feel like my kids were all pretty fast nursers, but they have all been very different when it comes to their suckage.. Shannon was my thumb sucker, Cameron didn't suck his thumb or take a pacifier, and & Julie took a pacifier. Of all of them, Julie was the one who was the biggest sucker. She seemed insatiable, but I think she just liked to suck.
    Abby said...
    I think for the most part, everyone's experiences so far fit that theory. Cool.

    And with the different comments and thinking about my nephews and nieces and my girls, I wonder if girls suck on pacifiers or fingers more than boys too!

    Que interesante.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!
    Christy said...
    So, let me think...Dade=ate all the time (slow eater) & no thumb sucking or pacifier, Corben = a bit more distractable and sucked his thumb until he cut his first tooth. Ella & Sylvie were both lazy eaters (took forever and wanted to eat a lot) and neither sucked their thumb or used a paci. Interesting observation! (Though I will tell you, all of my siblings either sucked a blanket or their thumb until they were way too old but the interesting thing was that Jymn was actually born with a sucking callus on his thumb and mom said he was her most distracted eater.)
    Qait said...
    Yeah, makes sense! I never really connected it to the food/eating, I just thought of it as how some babies want more sucking than others.
    So your theory covers the part of whether or not that need/want to suck was satisfied.
    I nursed Ender for such long periods of time, but he also loved his pacifier. He didn't just love having anything in his mouth though--he really, really quickly outgrew the baby instinct of putting everything in his mouth.
    I think that he enjoys the feeling of eating, like I do. It feels good to be drinking something or chewing or swallowing.
    As we weaned him from his pacifier, his eating habits stayed pretty much the same. He's a really slow eater, just like me!
    Trishelle said...
    Hmmmm. That is a very interesting theory. Most of my kids have had binkies and were slow eaters. I, on the other hand, was a thumbsucker until I was 8!!! I was formula fed by 3 months while my kids were all 6 months or later. Hmmmm.
    Rae said...
    I think that theory makes perfect sense.
    Crystal said...
    My kids were opposite! Lincoln was a very s.l.o.w nurser and was a fierce thumb sucker until he was four. Henry was a super fast nurser (seriously. Like 10 minutes tops.) and he only took a pacifier for about 18 months, and never was super attached to it. Interesting topic!
    Liz said...
    I like your theory. My kids fit in with it. Seth ate for long periods of time and needed neither pacifier or fingers. Josh-same. Claire-same. Drew-same. With Josh, somehow he got introduced to the pacifier (I honestly don't think it was my idea, maybe a sister-in-law, actually, but I don't really mind now) and liked it, but I took it away at 10 months and he was fine. I don't recall trying to introduce it to Claire or Andrew. I have a friend right now whose daughter is 2 months old and she eats quickly and then wants to suck more, too. Her mom is trying to get her to like the pacifier instead-so far without success. Her mom would like to remove the later on problem of finger sucking, since one of her older children still does that and you both would agree it's a hard habit to break!!
    This post was a month ago-how is it going now?
    Abby said...
    Still a struggle, Liz! Autumn forgets easily if she's watching TV and a blanket is close-by to be cuddly with. Heidi has a self-chosen keyword, "Hello Kitty" that is our code for her to notice and stop -- but she rarely notices on her own and chooses not to. She loves those fingers...Haven't even started with Esther yet. Life is always interesting, isn't it? If it's not one thing, it's another. :D But somehow we'll figure this all out!

Post a Comment