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Stopping Kids Thumb Sucking Habits

Are your kids constantly walking around with their thumb in their mouths, or falling asleep sucking on their thumb? It’s common to see babies and toddlers with thumb sucking habits. Yet many parents often find themselves asking how long these habits go along for and how they can stop them.

Why do Children Suck on their Thumb?

First, it’s important to understand that children often suck on their thumbs for very simple reasons – they are looking for comfort, a stress reliever, or its soothes them when falling asleep. As a parent who is looking to break this habit, knowing the source of your child’s thumb sucking is key to helping them stop.

Finding the root of their stress, or identifying when it happens can help you come up with ways of altering their habits. For instance, you can give your child a pillow or blanket to squeeze instead of sucking their thumb when they are seeking a form of comfort. This way, you are slowly altering their reflex to suck on their thumb when they need additional comfort.

Is it Harmful to My Child’s Teeth?

For kids who are beginning to grow in their adult teeth, aggressive thumb sucking can change the formation of their mouth palate (or roof of the mouth), their teeth may not line up properly, which can be fixed by braces, and in some cases they can develop lisps. If you are worried that your child is sucking on his or her fingers too much and it may affect their dental health, we have a few suggestions you can try.

What Can I Do to Help My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Keep in mind that your child will eventually grow out of this habit, but if you are concerned about their dental health, or problems arise you can try the following approaches:

The Do’s:

  • Do know that they will grow out of it
  • Do practice self-awareness – ask them if they know they are sucking their thumb when they are doing it, many times they don’t realize
  • Do limit the time they suck their thumb to at home only, let them know it’s not okay in to do public
  • Do talk to your child and make them understand they need to stop and it’s not good for them, eventually they will want to stop on their own
  • Do come up with creative ways to help them understand they are growing up and shouldn’t suck on their thumb “Do you think Elsa & Anna suck on their thumb? No, because they are big girls now”

The Don’ts

  • Don’t make it a confrontation or criticize them – especially in public. They may feel embarrassed and cause more stress.
  • Don’t prohibit it – it’s your child’s comfort mechanism, so try finding a different method to comfort them.

>>>Visit from the American Dental Association for additional information on children’s thumb sucking habits

Positive reinforcement is the best way to help your kids understand they need to change their habit. If you feel like you have tried everything, you can always take you child to the dentist and have your doctor explain to your kids why they need to stop. Hearing it from someone else may help in certain situations. Although placing sour or nasty tasting things or covering your children’s hands isn’t always recommended, you can try these tips to see what best works for you and your child.