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8 Tips To Wean Your Child Off Sucking His Thumb

5 min read

Child sucking thumb
Babies love to put everything in their mouths, and it seems they really like to suck their thumbs, much to the dismay of the parents!! Thumb sucking is a common habit among toddlers and young kids as it provides them comfort and works as a soothing mechanism. Kids who start thumb sucking immediately after birth, have learnt the art inside the womb. By the time you realize that your child is developing a habit, your child has already mastered the art of thumb sucking. This is a very common issue among children till an age of four years. If it persists in a child beyond that age, it needs to be looked into with some serious concern.

Why Do Babies Suck Their Thumbs?

Sucking comes very naturally to babies – just like they suck at their mother’s breasts – toddlers tend to suck their thumbs. They soothe themselves up, and comfort their stressed out minds. Older children often suck their thumb as it provides relaxation to them. They might do it when they are scared, bored, hungry or for some other reasons. By forcing your child’s finger out of his mouth, you are pulling him out of his comfort zone and the child tends to be cranky. Thumb sucking is a way to cope up with this huge world, and so many changes happening every second that make a child scared and stressed. Just like pacifiers work wonder for them to calm, thumbs too help babies to relax and feel comfortable.

How Long The Thumb Sucking Habit Lasts In Babies?

Most children drop the habit by the time they are 2 to 3 years old and develop other coping skills such as language. The world starts to seem a livable place and it looks manageable to the child. However, if the habit is just not going away, prolonged thumb sucking can cause an array of dental and speech problems. If you feel that once the child learns to speak and communicate well, you will need to get into the act first – by understanding that thumb sucking is your child’s way of curbing anxiety and then finding out strategic ways to help him kick the habit. By the age of 5 a child should have outgrown his thumb sucking habit – and if this has not happened you need to find help so as to ensure that the habit is quickly kicked off.

When Is Sucking The Thumb A Problem?

If your child has not quit the habit by the time she turns 3, you need to become slightly more watchful. However, if the baby is still sucking for most part of the day she is awake, it could be detrimental to her oral health and the habit needs to be broken down. Also, if the baby has some trouble in interacting as she is always busy with her thumb and mouth, you may need to resort to some tactics to break the thumb-sucking habit. Her dentist will also let you know if her thumb-sucking habit is affecting her oral development- in some cases, thumb sucking can cause crooked teeth and speech delays. It can also hamper the confidence of a child- especially if other kids her age have grown out of the habit. In such a case, you will need to devise some plan along with other family members to ensure that the thumb stays out of the mouth. Though it may seem tough at first, but slowly and gradually, your child will develop other coping techniques and the habit will go away.

8 Tips To Get Get Rid Of Thumb Sucking Habit In Toddlers

Here are a few tips that will help you bring your child break his thumb sucking habit.
Baby sucking thumb

  1. Nip it at the bud: When you notice your child putting his thumb in his mouth quite frequently, try to prevent him from getting into a habit of doing it. Remove his hands from his mouth or use the gloves or mittens available in the market. But don’t do it every time your child puts his hand in his mouth as he may get irritated and will start crying. You will need to stay firm and persistent in order to break the habit
  2. Let it go: The other way is to give your child some time to come out of his habit. Most children tend to stop thumb sucking between the ages of 2 to 4 years. If this sounds feasible to you If you give him the time he needs, he will probably come out of it, all by himself
  3. Observe the reasons: Observe when your child indulges in thumb sucking the most. For example, when he is scared, hungry or when he concentrates on something etc. Distract him when he is in those situations so that he forgets about thumb sucking. Give him toys to play or something to eat to divert his attention
  4. Never humiliate your child: Don’t scold your child for thumb sucking in public, no matter how irritated you feel. This will make him feel humiliated and insecure and he will feel the need to do it even more
  5. Restrict the time: If your child is into thumb sucking all the time, explain him softly, that he can do it but for some time may be before going to bed. Tell him this will help him to overcome his habit which he himself wants to forgo.
  6. Appreciate and reward: Watch for instances when the child does not suck his thumb when he usually does. When the child consciously refrain from sucking his thumb, appreciate him and if he goes a day or two without sucking, do reward him. Appreciations and rewards work as encouraging and positive reinforcements. This will encourage positive results
  7. Do not prohibit thumb-sucking: Refrain from using harsh words and means to prohibit his thumb sucking habit. Thumb sucking implies that a child is trying to seek comfort and reassurance, and by prohibiting the same you are just traumatizing him. You can instead explain him how the habit will harm and cause future problems
  8. Applying various things on his thumb: Many parents put something spicy on their child’s thumb to refrain him from thumb sucking. Some of them also go to the doctors to get some calcium or other agent that is bitter in taste but not harmful for the child. Such harsh methods should usually be avoided. Cello tape or band-aid could be put on the child’s thumb to help him refrain from sucking. Mothers could use pacifiers at times to help their kid avoid thumb sucking

Regular and aggressive thumb sucking can destroy the texture and the structure of his teeth and might require him to wear braces in the long run. It also could cause pain in the thumb. You can put some moistening cream or Vaseline on his thumb when he sleeps, so that the thumb gets relief, too.
Consult your doctor if your child is a compulsive thumb sucker.

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