Thumb sucking is a common habit among children. Babies have natural rooting and sucking reflexes, which can cause them to put their thumbs or fingers into their mouths — sometimes even before birth. Because thumb sucking makes babies feel secure, some might eventually develop a habit of thumb sucking when they’re in need of soothing or going to sleep.
Thumb sucking should not actually be a concern until a child’s permanent teeth come out, at this point, thumb sucking might begin to affect the roof of the mouth (palate) or how the teeth line up. This is more likely to occur if a child sucks vigorously, as opposed to passively resting the thumb in his or her mouth. When sucking becomes a ‘norm’ for your child, you are definitely right to think, “Enough is enough.”
Here are some helpful tips we believe will encourage your child to let go of the habit.
Nip it at the bud:
When you notice your child putting his thumb in his mouth quite frequently, try to prevent him from getting into a habit of doing this. Remove his hands from his mouth or use any mittens available in the market (as long as your child has got no allergy). But don’t do it every time your child puts his hand in his mouth as he may get irritated and will start crying.
Let it go:
The other way is to give your child some time to come out of his habit. Most children tend to stop thumb sucking between the ages of 2 to 4 years. If you give him the time he needs, he will probably come out of it, all by himself.
Observe the reasons:
Observe when your child indulges in thumb sucking the most. For example, when he is scared, hungry or when he is engrossed in an activity etc. Distract him when he is in these situations so that he forgets about thumb sucking. Give him toys to play or something to eat to divert his attention.
Never humiliate your child:
Don’t scold your child for thumb sucking in public, no matter how irritated you feel. This will make him feel humiliated and insecure and he will feel the need to do it even more. So, no shouting or hitting the hand.
Restrict the time:
If your child is into thumb sucking all the time, explain to him softly, that he can do it but for some time maybe before going to bed. Tell him this will help him to overcome his habit which he himself wants to forgo.
Do not prohibit thumb-sucking:
Refrain from using harsh words and means to prohibit his thumb sucking habit. Thumb sucking implies that a child is trying to seek comfort and reassurance, and by prohibiting the same you are just traumatizing him.
Talk to your child:
You are more likely to be successful in stopping the habit if your child wants to stop and helps choose the method to use.
Use positive reinforcement – Appreciate and reward:
Praise your child or provide small rewards, such as an extra bedtime story or a trip to his favorite place when he isn’t thumb sucking. Place stickers on a calendar when the child is not sucking his thumb and if he goes a day or two without sucking, reward him. This will encourage positive results.
If your child sucks his or her thumb in response to stress, identify the real issue and provide comfort in other ways — such as a hug or reassuring words. You might also give your child a pillow or stuffed animal to squeeze.
Offer gentle reminders:
If your child sucks his thumb without thought, rather than as a way to get your attention, gently remind him or her to stop. Don’t scold, criticize or ridicule your child. To spare embarrassment in front of others, you might alert your child to the thumb sucking with a special hand signal or other private cue.
I know the habit can be really irritating especially with the sucking sounds they make when engrossed and you feel tempted to try all sorts – squeezing bitter leave juice on the finger or thumb, wrapping with bandage, etc, you need to know a fact you can force your child to stop doing something, especially when they find it comforting. Their brain isn’t yet wired that way.
For some children, thumb sucking is an incredibly difficult habit to break. Remember, though, peer pressure typically leads kids to stop daytime sucking habits on their own when they start school.
In the meantime, try not to worry. Putting too much pressure on your child to stop thumb sucking might only delay the process.
Ok Moms, Confession Time! What tricks have you adopted to rid your child of this habit? Share in the comments.