How to Stop Thumb Sucking

Suckling is normal for every baby. When newborns are not nursing, they will find their fist, fingers, and even toes on which to suck. As they grow older, they may continue sucking their thumbs, starting chewing on their nails or have something such as a stuffed animal or blanket that they carry around for security. When the children are past the newborn or small baby stage, they actually continue with these types of nervous habits, without even being aware of their actions.

If this sounds like your child, do not make teasing remarks or pull their thumb out of their mouth. By trying to force your child to stop, you could very well make it worse. When children suck their thumbs or drag around their “security blankets” parents become worried that something is wrong. In fact, as long as your child still acts normal, there is no reason to be alarmed. If you want to help your child stop get past the need for their security, you can do some things to help without causing your child to feel belittled.

For younger children, you will find that children up to age four sucking their thumbs is quite normal. You may notice it happening when they are overly tired or not feeling well. In this case, just leave them alone. If you notice the thumb sucking is associated with boredom, you can find some activities for your child to do to take their mind off sucking their thumb. If your child holds onto a stuffed animal or blanket while sucking his or her thumb, try removing these items and see if that helps. In reverse, if they do not have these items while sucking, then give them something to see if that changes anything. Without going overboard, praise your child once in awhile when he or she is not sucking.

For older children, many times children older than four also suck their thumb. At this point, you need to start providing some direction to help them stop. Teach your child the negative aspects of thumb sucking. You can even show them pictures of a child’s teeth that sucked as well as explain how germs are transferred into the mouth. Talk to your child about pride and self-esteem. Would friends think it was “cool” that they are sucking their thumb? You can do this without being demeaning but making the point.

Wrap your child’s thumb with a band-aid or adhesive tape so if they reach up to put their thumb in their mouth, they will be reminded not to. Provide your child with some action items they can do. For example, when they start to put their thumb in their mouth, teach them to quickly make a fist and hold it for 30 seconds until the desire has passed. This will take some discipline but it helps them to be conscientious of their choice. In addition to verbal praise, create a poster board where you mark successful days with a sticker. This will help your child to see for their own eyes that their efforts are paying off.

Although it may be tempting, do not pull your child’s thumb out. They need to learn how to manage this and not rely on you. If by age six your child is still sucking the thumb, you should discuss this with your child’s dentist. To help with the sucking problem at night, your doctor may suggest a mouth device. To avoid embarrassing your child in public, the two of you should decide on a code word. If for example you choose the word “candy,” whenever out in public, to make your child aware that he or she is sucking their thumb, say this word.

This provides a reminder to your child to help them avoid public embarrassment but does not pull any unwanted focus to them. In the majority of time, children will simply outgrow their need to suck their thumb or carry around some sort of object for security. By handling this time appropriately as recommended above, your child will be able to stop and not lose their sense of confidence.

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About Renee Dietz

I have been a successful, published writer for the past 26 years, offering a writing style that is informative, creative, and reader-friendly. During that time, I have been blessed with clients from around the world! Over the years, more than 160 ebooks and well over 18,000 articles have been added to my credit. Writing is my passion, something I take to heart.