Thursday, December 04, 2008

Something no baby book talks about

I admit it. When Su and I started talking about becoming moms I approached it like a school project. Get focused on your topic, organize your research and learn as much as humanly possible. We read books, attended child birth classes, read blogs (which I still love to do) and I also tried to soak up as much as I could from friends who were already parents.

It’s all helped me. I think I’m a pretty good and responsible parent and partner and I think I’ve got a handle on just about everything. Except that one thing that the parenting books don’t talk about.

The pain you feel when your child hurts. How could words really describe that anyway? How could watching other parents deal really teach this?

Have you ever heard the phrase “sticks out like a sore thumb”? Sounds pretty benign right? Well it’s not. Danny has always been a thumb sucker. Certainly not all the time, but when he’s sleepy he’ll pop that left thumb in his mouth, rub a soft blanket with his right hand and drift off.

But in the last week or two he’s been sucking it pretty constantly. From everything we’ve read it could be the stress of a new day care setting (the first place didn’t work out and we are now at a better place.) It could be more teething. We are not sure. But we know for a fact that his thumb is raw and red. Skin is actually peeling off of it and it is swollen and painful.

We’ve been using Lanolin (which is what breastfeeding moms use when they have irritation) and at his 18 month check up today I’ll talk to the doctor for more ideas. But here’s the thing.

He sucks his thumb for comfort. I read that for many children the sucking releases endorphins and is very pleasurable. That’s why they do it. It’s a very strong habit. So when he’s awake we try to keep the ointment on it and play games that require him to use his hands so he won’t be tempted to suck, but when it’s time to sleep, he “assumes the position”. And after about 3 seconds of sucking he cries and pulls his thumb out. But then it goes back in. And the pattern repeats itself. It’s awful. We’ve tried to give him a pacifier, encouraged him to suck other fingers, tried to cover his hand, all to no avail. If I try and prevent him from putting his thumb in his mouth he fights it, which in no way contributes to him finally falling asleep. And he’s just too young to make the solid connection between THUMB IN MOUTH = PAIN IN HAND.

So I hold him as he cries and pray that he’ll stop or that the pain will be less the next time he tries to put his thumb in his mouth. And it’s maddening to me that something as seemingly minor as a sore thumb can cause him such pain. I know that many children suffer so much more pain with illnesses and injuries, but that knowledge does not diminish the powerlessness I feel as I try to comfort my sweet boy.

And of course during the night if the thumb goes back in his mouth the cycle starts again.

I know that his thumb will heal. I know lots of things. But I never knew this feeling before. It’s not one I recommend to anyone. -Monica


Strawberry said...

As a not-yet-mother, I have no real advice or experience BUT the first thing that came to mind as a possible alterative to thumb-sucking was a security item (blanket, teddy bear, whatever). I wonder if it would be possible to switch him from the thumb to another object of comfort? Just a thought.

nutella said...

I was a nighttime thumb sucker until I got braces at age 11. I had a callous on my thumb. No other fingers, other thumb, or other sucking device ever made a difference. Even when it hurt, I sucked it. My only suggestion is perhaps something numbing? Like oil of clove? Or baby ambesol? If it's numbing for the gums it should be numbing for the thumb, too, right?

Poor Danny, feel better soon.

Jenni said...

Poor, Dan.

Oscar, who actually sucks his thumb more frequently in my experience, suffers from this quite a bit. A few times, he's even rubbed a spot RAW with his bottom two teeth. He evenutally lets up a little an it heals, only to happen all over again. I think the cold weather makes it worse, since both our boys have sensitive skin as it is.

We put antibiotic ointment on it as well, at our peditrician's suggestion.

Susanica said...

Thanks for your comments you guys. The doc thought that vasaline was actually the best thing to use in terms of the fact that he was going to ingest whatever we put on. Jenni, that aquafor that you'd recommended to us a long time ago for his face rash is vasaline based so we're going with that. It seems to be getting better. Nutella, you're so right that when a kid wants his or her thumb they are going to continue no matter what. Su's father told us he sucked his right thumb until he was 5 or so. His mother kept threatening to put chicken poop on it. Fortunately for Danny we don't have any of that around here! -M