Toddler Thumbsucking, Parenting, and Being Careful What You Wish For

I have known for quite some time that I have to be careful what I wish for, because I just might get it.  I frequently get what I wish for.  It just doesn’t work out quite as I’d intended.  A few days ago, I’d posted about our toddler thumbsucking issues.  I thought that I’d do anything to get Norton to stop the toddler thumbsucking, short of amputation.

I thought wrong.

Standing on the hospital gurney with one useless arm.

Standing on the hospital gurney with one useless arm. (Excuse the quality; taken on my phone in less than perfect lighting conditions.)

I spent a while at the hospital a few days ago.  The previous day, Norton was holding hands with his daddy, but didn’t want to go upstairs.  So he decided to throw himself on the floor.  When he did, we had the return of the dreaded nursemaid’s elbow.  We decided to wait it out; it happens frequently and usually resets itself with him.  I was unhappy and concerned, but my husband pointed out that at least he wasn’t sucking his thumb since he only had one hand available… and that hand had to be used to carry around his best friend Pillow.

We gave him some Tylenol.  We waited.  Usually, he starts using it again in about six hours.

This time he didn’t.  Come bedtime, he was still not using his arm.  When he woke up crying because his arm hurt at ten o’clock, I wanted to take him to the hospital.  It wasn’t fixing itself.  My husband pointed out that there was still a chance that it would go back to normal overnight.  After all, the first time this happened, we high tailed it to the hospital after our doctor sent us for x-rays.  They couldn’t fix it, and it did go back on its own.  Besides, since we have two kids, one of us would have to stay home with Eudora, so the other would have to go alone.  He can be a little difficult to wrangle at times.

So I waited.  And in the morning, it was no better.

We did end up going to the hospital and waiting.  My mother-in-law baby-sat Eudora so that we could go ahead and get his arm taken care of.  The wait?  No fun.  Norton was bored.  He wanted to run around in the curtains.  He wanted to play.  He did not want to read the Spot book I’d brought along for entertainment.  He was not willing to cuddle the stuffies that the hospital staff brought over.  In the end, the only thing that kept him content was the constant feeding of fruit bites.  It was not exactly our finest example of toddler behavior or toddler parenting.

Then there was that blessed moment when the doctor came over.  The doctor did reset it.  Norton was so appreciative that he started giving the doctor kisses.  (This is really weird for Norton.  He does not generally give out kisses like it’s Halloween candy.)

This is when I remembered that old adage: be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  I wished and wished for an end to the toddler thumbsucking, but I sure didn’t like the way I got it.  As soon as Norton’s arm was comfortable to use again, that thumb was right back in his mouth.  On the plus side, though, at least it gave his thumb time to kind of dry out.

We’re definitely going to hunt for some of that bitter nail polish this weekend.  But I’ve now realized that I’d rather him suck his thumb than have to have a dislocated elbow reset by the doctor.

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links.  Should you purchase from an affiliate link, I receive a small commission that is used to support Motherhood Looms.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Oh I’m so sorry for your little guy! Glad he’s better though.

  2. Tracy Thomas says:

    Great post! Love your site design! 🙂

  3. Wow I am glad he is better now!

  4. that is pitiful. 🙁

    I kept wishing my little would use a paci. After all you can take a paci away… as you mentioned, short of amputation, you can’t take a thumb away… but alas, we are happy thumb suckers at our house. I guess I’m lucky we never had late night I-Can’t-Find-My-Paci-Wakeups.

  5. Wow! I’m so sorry for everything that you had to go through but sure am glad that your little guy is ok now.

  6. Oh my word! That sounds painful! I’ve never had to deal with thumb sucking with any of my three children, but I have heard from other parents how hard it is to break a child from it. Good luck (and no more injuries!)

  7. A great way to help kids stop thumb sucking is called Thumbuddy To Love. It comes with a book and thumb puppet and kids love it because like the heroes in the book, they can break their habit! It is positive way to teach kids how to end thumb sucking and does not use bitter polishes which have chemicals in them.
    Kids love it and it even comes with a success chart. Google “Thumbuddy To Love”.

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