How to Help Your Child Break the Thumb Sucking Habit

Pediatric Dentistry for Avon, Connecticut

Thumb Sucking Is A Normal Part of Childhood

Many children suck on their thumbs starting in the womb as a way to explore the world around them. They may continue the habit as a way to soothe themselves if they feel stressed. Thumb sucking is a normal part of childhood that is generally not cause for concern but can cause problems if it continues for too long.

Children who suck on their thumbs for a long time can develop problems with the growth of their jaws, misalignment of teeth, or speech problems. They might require orthodontic treatment when they get older.

Most kids give up sucking their thumbs on their own between the ages of 2 and 4 as they devote more time and energy to exploring their environment and playing. Kids who are still sucking on their thumbs when they enter preschool often give it up due to peer pressure.

If your child is still sucking on his or her thumb at the age of 5, you should discourage the habit, but applying too much pressure can backfire. It is best to take a positive approach.

Don't put vinegar or another bitter-tasting liquid on your child's thumb. This would likely be viewed as a punishment and could upset your child.

If your child is going through a stressful time, such as the birth of a new sibling or a move to a new neighborhood, don't push him or her to stop thumb sucking. Trying to get a child to give up thumb sucking during a stressful time can be much harder. Wait a few months until your child's stress level has been reduced.

A child can't suck on a thumb if both hands are occupied. Encourage your child to play with toys and games and make arts and crafts projects that will keep both hands busy.

Kids suck on their thumbs to comfort themselves. You can give your child another soothing object, such as a toy, stuffed animal, or blanket, to take the place of sucking a thumb. Giving up an object is easier for a child than kicking the thumb sucking habit.

Use positive reinforcement, rather than shame or criticism. Praise your child whenever he or she goes without sucking a thumb. You can reward your child with a prize or stickers or create a "thumbprint" calendar where your child puts a thumbprint on each day that he or she goes without sucking a thumb.

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David Epstein
CT Pediatric Dentist
David Epstein
A.B., D.D.S., M.S.D.

23 Jan 2022 12:08 AM