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Helping Your Child Break A Thumb Sucking Habit

Wendy J. Woudstra

An infant's thumb sucking habit can often begin in the womb, showing parents an adorable glimpse of personality in ultrasound images, and continue into early childhood. Sucking is a natural reflex for infants, necessary for them to feed from breast or bottle. An infant's thumb or finger sucking is nothing to be concerned about as most children stop this habit by the time they are four or five years old. But for some children, the habit hangs on longer, giving parents cause to worry. Prolonged thumb or finger sucking habits can have a detrimental effect on your child's teeth, as well as lead to bullying and teasing from peers as their social interactions increase.

If your child is still sucking his thumb, don't worry. There is a variety of things you can do to help him quit the habit.

  • Talk to your child about the negative effects of thumb sucking in a way that makes him aware of the issue without causing too much distress.
  • If your child sucks his thumb during the day, focus on activities that keep his hands busy, such as coloring, finger painting and playing with clay.
  • Use lots of positive reinforcement to encourage your child to keep from sucking his fingers or thumbs during waking hours.
  • At bedtime, simple things, such as wearing a glove or bandaging the tasty finger at night for a few weeks, may be all that is required for your child to break the habit.
  • If the thumb sucking habit proves more persistent, you can consult with your dentist for other options to discourage your child from this habit.

When your child does break the habit, be sure to praise and reward him. Breaking any habit is hard to do, and his achievement is one he should be proud of!

Learn more about the problems related to thumb sucking at the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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