S.J. asks from Tulsa, OK on February 09, 2009
13 Month Old Using Fingers as a Teething Ring and Leaving Marks!
Hi, my 13 1/2-month old has suddenly started gnawing on her thumb. She'll put her thumb as far back as it will go, and her teeth leave marks in the same spot. It is getting very red and scabby-looking like bad cuts look and I'm worried it will get infected and I imagine it is painful. But it can't heal because she puts her thumb in the same way all the time. Anyone had this problem? What do you do about it? I don't want to put Neosporin on it because she would lick it off and that can't be good for her, and I worry if I put a bandaid on it she will pull it off or chew it off and it could become a choking hazard. She normally uses teething toys but lately she refuses them and uses the thumb. Sometimes it looks like she is just sucking her thumb, which doesn't bother me if she does, but she is injuring herself! And she voluntarily gave up the pacifier a long time ago, when she was 3 months old, so I don't know why she suddenly would want to suck more. Anyway, maybe there is something to put on her finger that would make her not want to put it in her mouth (like vinegar, which wouldn't harm her if ingested). However, on the other hand, I don't want to discourage her putting fingers in her mouth in case it interferes with her wanting to feed herself finger foods. But I can't keep letting her gnaw her fingers off! Help!
J.N. answers from Oklahoma City on February 11, 2009
Since she is so resistant to taking her thumb away I would not forcefully take the thumb away; that may only lead to more stress. I would focus more on relieving the teething pain. Hyland's teething tablets are great and very gentle, as they are homeopathic. If that's not enough you could try the Orajel, or Infant's Motrin if she's in a lot of pain. In addition, like another person responded, I would keep looking for safe substitutes. The cold teething ring works for some, and I have read good things about that Sophie the Giraffe--looks pricey but maybe not when compared to self-injury! Good luck!
N.B. answers from Oklahoma City on February 13, 2009
I have never seen a child get an infection from sucking their thumb/biting it until it got a wound, but if you want to keep her from playing with it you may try a flavor she doesn't like. For example, if she doesn't like lemon Juice put a little just around the thumb pad and nail and let it dry, but not into the wound, and then if she starts sucking it she'll taste lemon and her wound will burn a little...and eventually she will leave her thumb alone. Other's I know have used hot sauce. The dentist also has a stinky/yucky tasting nail polish that you paint on designed to help get rid of thumbsucking behaviors.
D.B. answers from Lafayette on February 10, 2009
Does she put her thumb in her mouth all the time or is it just for her to sleep? I didn't have this problem with my child but my neice did. She would do it mostly while she was sleeping so they put socks on her hands while she napped and in the evenings. At the beginning she would fight to take them off but after a while she realized she wasn't getting any satisfaction with the thumb anymore and it eventually stopped. They also tried to put some kind of solution on her thumb that discourages thumb sucking but I can't remember what the name is. Maybe ask your peditrican.
L.B. answers from Fayetteville on February 09, 2009
Try pacifiers filled with frozen water :)
Or, oh - maybe her usual teething toys are too soft? Maybe try something a little harder. I really like the Haba fish: perfect fit for a little hand, and the fin is just great. Also, it's perfectly safe and non-toxic. Also, Sofie the Giraffe is a great teething toy, and similarly soft yet firm, like a finger. It gets top ratings from parents everywhere.
Other than that, hmm, there are great wooden toys out there. From Haba, too, actually, and cottonbabies.com in general. Or just google: non-toxic wood toys.
Of course if it IS a comfort thing, it might be that there is a nuew stress in your baby's life. Try to think of what might have changed.
So, basically, instead of punishing/thwarting the behavior - since it is in some sense a comfort thing, be it physical or emotional - find a good substitute - and extra comfort. Use your mama genius! You'll find just the thing!