When I became a parent, the last thing I expected was to have to protect my child from eating her own feet. Eating might be too dramatic of a term. Chewing on or teething on her feet is more accurate, but those terms seem a bit understated based on my experience.
Most kids put their feet in their mouth, so what’s the big deal? Well, most kids can feel their feet, so automatically figure out how hard they can bite down without drawing blood. My daughter, on the other hand, cannot feel her feet. Hence… blood.
I am a member of a Spina Bifida families group, so I shared my dilemma with them to learn from their wisdom and experience. As a result, I heard horror stories of riding in the car and looking back to see blood dripping down their child’s mouth, and waking up to a “blood bath” in the crib.
Holy cow. Time for Project Toe Protection!
During the day was simple. I kept socks on her at all times. I was awake, so I could keep an eye on her. When we were in the car, I had a mirror that I checked at every stop light to make sure her feet stayed out of her mouth. The socks and car seat straps seemed to deter foot chewing in the car, so after a few days I relaxed.
I worried more about nighttime. Socks can easily come off, and she was wearing an AFO on her right foot at night which made footie pajamas a challenge to fit. But … A company called Halo make these fabulous devices called sleep sacks! Perfect.
A sleep sack is basically a zip up pouch with arm and head holes that is meant to replace blankets in cribs and encourage safer sleep. It worked perfectly, and they make them up to size extra large! Because her feet were encased in the blanket-like pouch, she ignored them at night, and we avoided a dramatic blood bath of our own.
I eventually did give up the sleep sack, but not until after her second birthday. They gave me peace of mind, not only about teething, but also because I worried about her getting tangled up in blankets overnight. With reduced mobility combined with a sleeping hand splint and AFOs, I had (perpetual and possibly irrational) fears of her suffocating due to blanket tangling.
When we moved her into a big girl bed at two and a half years old to free up the crib for my son, my husband had to convince me that she would survive with full size blankets and a pillow. I think he could see my eyes darting back and forth like a trapped squirrel as I wrestled between realizing she was growing up and more capable mobility-wise, and wanting to protect her due to my own fear. He was right, so we packed away the sleep sacks and let her feet be free!
If your child can’t feel their feet, you may want to consider investing in a couple sleep sacks. While this makes a great story, I could have lived without seeing my little girl’s toes chewed up.