Thumb Sucking Baby

Thumb sucking is quite a common habit that newborns develop right from the time they are in the womb. Continue reading to know some interesting aspects of it.

Last Updated: 23 October 2020

Thumb Sucking Baby
Thumb Sucking Baby

Why do babies suck their thumb?

Thumb sucking is a very natural habit of babies. Babies are born with numerous reflexes and one such reflex is the sucking reflex. The sucking reflex makes them put their thumb and fingers into their mouth as it is very easily accessible. Sometimes this habit may start before the birth of the baby which is evident from the ultrasound pictures. It is believed that this “non nutritive” sucking soothes them and makes them feel secure. Some babies may suck their thumb when they are hungry or about to sleep. “Thumb sucking” is an act of emotional maturing where children are letting us know that they are gaining independence.

When it starts?

This habit is seen in newborns as early as two hours after birth. The habit will subside on its own between the ages of two and four. Sometimes a child who has stopped the habit may regain it during the times of stress.

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Should I intervene?

Most children leave this habit by themselves. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that treatment may be necessary if children continue this habit beyond the age of five. It is estimated that 1 in 20 children suck their thumb by the age of eight.

During the period of permanent teething, thumb sucking may begin to affect the roof of the mouth or how teeth line up. However the intensity of the issue depends on how long, how often and how intensely your child sucks his thumb. Some problems like protruding front teeth or bite problems, infections, sore thumbs may be an area of concern. In such cases, using a pacifier helps solve the issue as they have certain advantages like they are softer and cause less damage to the teeth and the rim on the pacifier eases the tension on the teeth and pacifiers are easy to clean.

Problems with thumb sucking

If your kids continue to have the habit after the age of five, they may face some issues. However it all depends on how long and how intense they are sucking their thumb. Some of the problems that happen due to thumb sucking are:

·         Chances that the child’s upper jaw being pushed out further from their face

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·         Lower front teeth moved downwards and further into the mouth

·         There can be a gap between the child’s upper and lower teeth

·         The child’s speech can get affected

·         The position of the tongue can become abnormal

How can I help my child get rid of this habit?

Most children stop this habit by the age of 4 or when they enter the school. Here are some ways that you can try to help your child stop this habit.

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·         You can explain the disadvantages of the habit and make them not do.

·         Always be patient and positive and don’t nag them to give up this habit.

·         You and your child can have a specific private signal that helps you to communicate with them when they are in a gathering or crowd. This helps prevent the embarrassment.

·         Always appreciate them when they realize and intentionally try avoiding the habit. You can give them small rewards that keep them motivated.

·         Some children have a tendency to suck when they are in stress or fear. Find the cause of the issue and give them the right solution.

·         To deviate them from this habit, you can engage them in other activities like giving them the toys they love to have.

·         If the behavior is hard to stop, you can use a mitten or thumb guard, gloves to help them stop.

·         In rare instances, you can apply a bitter ointment or bad-tasting polish on their thumb to help them wean off the habit.

·         If the habit continues after the age of five, you can consult a dentist or orthodontist and make them realize the hazards of thumb sucking.




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