Our Story part 2 - The Thumb Guards

Thumb Sucking - our solution

Despite the negative opinions of our ancestors, today we accept that thumb or finger sucking is natural for babies. We know babies do this to self-soothe or when they are hungry.

As our dentist explained, it is when the habit continues beyond age four, most problems arise.  Continued thumb sucking alters the shape of the mouth and the position of the permanent teeth. This often leads to major issues for the child. Parents of such children need a thumb sucking battle plan.

Some of our own children were already at the major issues stage when we discovered the harm sucking can do. As such we also needed a thumb sucking battle plan. We were actively considering our strategy when a dear friend made contact with us. She confided that her children were also struggling to break the thumb sucking habit. However, she had thought of a solution. That solution involved me, or rather my skills on a sewing machine.

Entering ‘no hands’ land

Parents often resort to using bandages and even socks as barriers to thumb sucking on children’s hands. Unfortunately, bandages cause the child to appear permanently injured and socks restrict most activities. Besides, both are likely to elicit unwanted questions which can make the child feel socially insecure. As my son pointed out, “wearing socks on your hands just looks weird unless of course,  it is snowing”.

Our thumb sucking battle plan

Our friend’s request was for something far better than a bandage or sock. She asked if we could create a fabric glove. The glove design had few criteria. The glove had to be colorful so the children would want to wear it. It had to be comfortable so that it would not chafe and it had to be washable. It also had to be easy to use, so the children could put it on and take it off independently.

The next few days were a hive of activity as we sketched hands and considered pattern details. Until that point, we had only made plush toys and fabric ornaments. While we no longer had to consider toy safety, we decided our guards should be made to a similar standard.

Our thumb guards would help deter children from sucking their thumb or fingers in two ways. The guards had to be a visual reminder not to suck. They also had to be a barrier between the thumb and the roof of the mouth. Having the barrier would reduce the comforting sensation of thumb sucking.  Therefore, as children would potentially insert the guards into their mouths, we had to eliminate any choking risks.

Fit for purpose

While the process seemed simple, I lost count of how many guards we designed and stitched that week. At first, we considered only comfort and safety. Then we realized we had not considered functionality. What good was a thumb guard if it was not fit for purpose?

It was not enough that the guard was comfortable and safe. It also had to be practical if it was to be worn by children. We began to ask ourselves other questions. Could the child write while wearing the glove? Would the guard restrict the child’s ability to play? What fabric could we use to avoid making the child’s hand sweat etc?

An accidental product

Before long we had our guard, however,  the criteria list had quadrupled in size as had the expenses. This led to a further challenge. We had no idea how long it would take for our children to stop thumb sucking. We did not know how many guards we would need. How could we produce our guard and meet all the new criteria while still making our thumb guards cost-effective?

We couldn’t find a way to reduce the cost of making the guards for our children. Therefore we decided the solution was to try and sell a few guards in our Etsy store.  If they sold, the costs to ourselves would decrease.

We listed the guards and headed off for a much-needed coffee break. On our return, we were in for a shock. All the guards had sold and we were in receipt of requests for more. Our thumb sucking battle plan had received a thumbs up.

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