Children are born with natural rooting and sucking reflexes, which can cause them to put their thumbs into their mouths and suck. And because it has a soothing and calming effect for babies and young children, some of them might eventually develop the habit when they're in need of soothing or going to sleep.Image credit: pinterest
Thumb-sucking in babies is not something to be worried about. Most children stop this behavior when they are 6 or 7 months old, while others stop doing it naturally by about the age of 4, if not earlier.
However, once this habit goes on beyond the age of about 5, it can become a concern. This is because once the permanent teeth start coming in, thumb-sucking can affect the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth. So, in this article, I'll be sharing some things you can do to curb the habit in your child.
1) Offer gentle reminders
Your child may not realize he is sucking his thumb, since the behavior is a reflex action that gives them comfort. So, remind him gently that he is doing it and that it’s not good for him. Don't scold, criticize or ridicule your child, as this can make him more resistant to changing the behavior.Image credit: huffpost.com
2) Use positive reinforcement
You can set small goals to encourage him/her, like no thumb-sucking an hour before bed, or not doing it throughout the day, and reward him/her with encouragement and praise, or a specific reward, each time he/she goes the full time without thumb-sucking.Image credit: dreamstime.com
3) Know what triggers him to suck his thumb
If your child sucks his thumb in response to stress, identify the real issue and provide comfort in other ways, such as with a hug or reassuring words, or give him a pillow or stuffed animal to squeeze. Similarly, if your child seeks comfort before going to bed by sucking his thumb, you can take a few measures to help him get a better night’s sleep, such as giving him a bath before bed.
4) Consider aversive measures as a last resort
If, after a while, you notice your child is still thumb-sucking, even after trying the above ideas, some experts recommend aversive measures, like covering his thumb with a bitter substance, or by using a bandage or thumb guard, or covering the hand with a sock or mitten at night, to discourage your child from sucking.Image credit: thenounproject.com
Keep in mind that trying to break the habit won’t happen overnight. Patience and consistency on your part, and making sure that your child is in a happy place, will help him/her conquer the thumb-sucking habit once and for all.
Thanks for reading.
Article Reference: mayoclinic.org; pampers.com
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