| Posted by My Super Nanny

We recently did a post on Tips for weanig off the dummy!  Well giving up the thumb sucking is a similar scenario. It may just seem like a little thing to you but to the child it is not.

Thumb sucking can begin even before birth. Some of you might have seen this on your ultrasounds. Cute, right?!

Babies have a natural rooting and sucking reflexes, which cause them to put their thumbs or fingers in their mouths. As the baby grows into their toddler years the thumb sucking usually continues and becomes a habit, especially if they are bored, tired or anxious. Often they will suck their thumb holding their security blanket, making them feel safe.


Most children will stop sucking their thumb on their own – usually around 2-4 years. So don’t be concerned until after then. When your child begins 4-year-old kinder or prep, peer pressure will generally end the habit.


The Mayo Clinic has some wonderful steps and tips for going through this stage of a child’s life.


When to step in?

  • If your child is 4 or 5 years old and sucking their thumb frequently and/or aggressively.
  • If sucking the thumb is causing dental problems, such as upper front teeth tipping towards the lip.
  • If your child is embarrassed by the thumb sucking.


To encourage your child to stop sucking the thumb try the following techniques:

  • Don't mention it. In some cases, paying no attention to thumb sucking is enough to stop the behavior — especially if your child uses thumb sucking as a way to get attention.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Praise your child or provide small rewards — such as an extra bedtime story or a trip to the park — when he or she isn't thumb sucking. Place stickers on a calendar to record the days when your child successfully avoids thumb sucking.
  • Identify triggers. 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 or her 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.


If your steps and techniques do not work sometimes going to the dentist can help. Have the dentist explain to your child why it is important to stop sucking the thumb and what damage it might do to their beautiful mouth and teeth. The dentist may also recommend a special mouth guard that will interfere with thumb sucking.


We wish you all the best in the process and remember peer pressure most likely will stop your child’s thumb sucking during the day and only use positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement may only delay the situation.


Love Parents Forum x

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