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How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

Thumb sucking is common among children but can be difficult for some to stop. Here is some advice and tips to help them.

Thumb sucking is common habit amongst children and can be difficult to break.  As parent though you may come to a time when you think “enough is enough.”  Here is advice for you to help and encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb.

Why do some Children Suck their Thumbs?

Babies put their thumbs and fingers in their mouths because they have a natural rooting and sucking reflexes.  They sometimes even do it before birth.

Some babies may eventually develop a habit of thumb sucking when they are tired, anxious or bored because it is soothing,

A lot of children who suck their thumbs or fingers do it whilst they holding a treasured object, e.g. a security blanket.

How long does Thumb Sucking go on for?

Many children stop thumb sucking on their own during their toddler years (between the ages of two and four).

A child who has stopped sucking their thumb may return the behaviour when they become anxious or stressed.

When should I Intervene in it?

Thumb sucking is not normally a worry until the child’s permanent teeth come in.  If the child carries on thumb sucking at this point, it may start to affect the roof of his or her mouth or how their teeth line up. 

You should consider stepping in if:

Your child carries on thumb sucking aggressively or frequently after age four or five

Dental problems, e.g. the upper front teeth tipping towards the lip, are being caused

Your child feels embarrassed

How can I Encourage my Child to Stop Sucking their Thumb?

These are techniques that you can consider following to help:

Do not mention it.  Paying no attention to thumb sucking is enough to stop it in some cases.  This is especially true of your child uses thumb sucking as a way of gaining attention.

Positive reinforcement.  When your child is not thumb sucking, praise him or her or provide small treats, e.g. an extra story at bedtime or a trip to the park.  Record days when your child does not suck their thumb by placing stickers on a calendar.

Identify triggers. If your child sucks their thumb due to stress, identify the real problem and give comfort in other ways, e.g. a cuddle or reassuring words.  You can also give him or her a stuffed toy or pillow to squeeze.

Gentle reminders.  If your child sucks their thumb without thinking about it, remind them gently to stop.  Avoid scolding, criticizing or ridiculing your child.  Avoid embarrassing them in front of others by using a special hand signal or other private cure to alert your child.

Can a Dentist Help?

You can check with your dentist if you are worried that your child’s thumb sucking is affecting their teeth.

For some children, chatting with the dentist about why it is important not to suck their thumb is more effective than talking with mom or dad.

In other cases, the dentist may recommend that your child wear a special mouth guard or other dental appliance which will interfere with the thumb sucking.

Conclusion

Thumb sucking is a very hard habit for some children to break.  Peer pressure normally stops children from sucking their thumb on their own when the begin school. 

Try not to worry in the meantime.  You can actually delay the process of your child stopping sucking their thumb by placing too much pressure on them.

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