Thumb Sucking – How to get rid of the habit | Proeves Learning Lab

Many parents worry about their infants sucking their thumb or fingers. There is always a worry of the habit continuing into childhood. But did you know that thumb sucking is a very normal reflex which your baby might be doing even before he was born. Here’s why Thumb sucking is normal for newborns:

a. Normal Reflex: Babies are born with the natural reflex of sucking as this is how they eat. Therefore, it’s good that your baby has already learnt this skill.

b. Sucking helps baby feel secure and as he grows it makes him comfortable and happy.

c. It also helps induce sleep and some babies want to suck their thumb before bedtime or when tired.

How long is it acceptable?

Experts say that thumb sucking can be a problem if it persists beyond the age of 4. By that time, it can affect the developing jaws, and teeth causing misaligned teeth. Mostly children leave the habit on their own when they realise that it is not socially acceptable or when they start going to playgroups and have peer pressure to prove that they are grown enough to leave the habit. However, if you are finding it difficult to get rid of the habit, here are some practical tips that might help.

1. Offer Pacifiers: If your baby is used to sucking in order to fall asleep, you might want to switch to pacifiers instead which are easier to take away when you want to break the habit.

2. Reward System: You can start by giving a sticker for every hour without sucking. If the child is able to go the whole day without the need to suck thumb, give him a special reward like a new book for bedtime. If the child is able to leave thumb sucking for 2 weeks then rejoice that the habit is gone for good.

3. Role Playing: If your child has a favourite toy then you can try role playing with it. Tell the child that teddy wants to leave a habit so will you be a role model and offer some suggestions.

4. Use finger guard: There are many products available on Amazon which can be used to cover the thumb. They are usually made of plastic or silicone. 

5. Taste Trick: You might want to apply a little vinegar or bitter guard juice on the child’s thumb in order to refrain her from sucking. Many parents have used this trick and they vouch for its effectiveness.

6. Explain the consequences: Talk to your child about the ill-effects of thumb sucking in an age appropriate way. A 4 year old might understand that sucking thumb can lead to dental problems and could require using braces in the long term. You can tell your 2 year old that there are a lot of germs on his thumb and putting them in his mouth can make him sick. 

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