Thumb Sucking Habit

Thumbs Down: Help Your Child Break the Thumb Sucking Habit

Expecting parents get the first glimpse of their child through ultrasound images. As the child grows inside a mother’s womb, the adorable ultrasound images may show an infant sucking their thumb. For infants, sucking is a natural reflex. It is estimated that about 80 percent of infants suck their thumbs. It’s necessary so they learn how to feed from breast or bottle. It also helps babies feel secure and soothes them, making it easier for them to fall asleep.

Normally, thumb sucking isn’t something to be concerned about, as most children stop the habit by the time they’re four or five years old. But if, say, your child is entering elementary school and is still regularly sucking their thumb, it’s time for you to intervene.

Why Discontinue Your Child’s Thumb Sucking Habit?

If your child continues to suck their thumb even after their permanent teeth have grown, they might suffer from malocclusions, like open bite, overbite, or crossbite. If any of these conditions happen, your child will have to have teeth alignment procedures using custom-made appliances for orthodontic treatment. Apart from malocclusions, though, thumb sucking may result in:

  • Skin problems in the thumb
  • Speech impediments
  • Bacteria ingestion
  • Social anxiety

Fortunately, you can prevent the above mentioned negative effects of thumb sucking by helping your child break this habit. Consider the following techniques:

Talk to your child

Always start by explaining to your child why thumb sucking is a habit they should break. Explain to them how germs can travel from their thumbs to their body, causing sickness and how their teeth might be crooked if they continue. By giving them the facts, you’re making them aware of the issue without scaring or forcing them to stop. Once your child understands the consequences, the newfound knowledge may push them to decide for themselves that they need to curb their habit.

Use positive reinforcement

Encourage your child to drop the habit by praising them for not thumb sucking for an hour, for example. You may also offer them something that would make them happy such as permission to stay up late on occasion or storytime with their favorite book. If your child anticipates a reward for doing what they’re told, getting them to stop thumb sucking will be way easier.

Apply bitter polish on their nails

Apart from thumb sucking, nail biting is another prevalent habit not just in young ones but in adults, too. In light of this, products designed to curb nail-biting have been available in the market for some time, including non-toxic but bitter-tasting nail polish. You can put it on your child’s fingers so the bitter taste discourages them from sucking.

Make them use gloves or finger covers

As with nail-biting, there are now products specifically intended to stop the habit of thumb sucking. From cloth gloves to glove-like devices that are more rigid and made from medical-grade plastic, there are plenty of treatment options out there that makes it harder or even impossible for your child to suck on their thumbs, effectively stopping the habit.

If all else fails, you might want to look into the reason your growing child still sucks their thumb. It may be because of unaddressed anxiety or some other negative feeling. Getting to the root cause enables you to nip the problem – and other potential ones – in the bud.

Keep in mind that breaking any habit is hard, so be patient with your child. When they do break the habit, make sure to praise them for this achievement that they should be proud of.