Does Your Child Suck?

July 20, 2015 No Comments

Why thumb sucking is bad and how to break the habit.stop thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural and instinctive habit that many children adopt. Our innocent little ones sweetly sucking their thumb is a site that makes us go AWWWWW. This includes sucking fingers and pacifiers. Some children even suck on toys and blankets.

It can begin as early as in the womb and continue into adulthood for some. Most children are weaned from doing it or break the habit themselves around 2-4 years of age (According to the American Dental Association). When they are little it can give them comfort, help them self sooth themselves and help them when they feel sad or scared.   It’s a tool, many kids use. It is fine in young children, but it can cause many problems later.

Parents allow the thumb sucking for many reasons such as being uniformed of the harm, unlike lost pacifiers, it’s easy to find, and frankly it’s pretty cute. Thumb sucking is bad for your child because it can cause sore thumbs, dental issues, jaw issues, speech issues and teasing from other children.   The sucking can cause their teeth to buck out and become misshapen, even harming their jawline. A cute thing now can cause them a lot of pain and harm in later years. Do you want to pay for braces?

Also consider what is under their nail beds. Children crawl, touch, feel and run their hands around everything. The germs and dirt on their hands and nails should never go in their mouth.

It stinks to have to upset your child, and it’s time consuming to constantly monitor and help them develop better habits, but it is for their greater good.



How to get your child to stop sucking their thumb?


The earlier you can get your child to break their sucking habit the easier and better off they will be. You should absolutely help them stop sucking by the time their permanent teeth come in, but even then may be too late. Jaw alignment can be damaged well before adult teeth show.


  1. Your first action should be to talk to your child. Explain what the continued sucking will do to their mouth, jaw and teeth. Show them photos on the internet, ask them if they want their teeth to look like that. Explain how often they will have to go to the dentist and how much braces hurt.   This may be difficult if your child is very young, but talking about it and explaining it can ease them into stopping. Take them to the Dentist and have the Dentist explain to them what will happen. Ask your Dentist for advice.


  1. Watch your child and pinpoint when they suck their fingers the most. Is it when they are sleepy, sad, uncomfortable or bored. It’s very common for thumb suckers to do it around nap and bedtime, when they are hungry, or more severe thumb suckers do it when they are bored.


Once you have pinpointed the most common reasons you can work on activities to get their minds off it. If it is when they are tired you can have them hold a book while you read until they fall asleep. If it is when they are bored, give them a small ball or goo or a toy to hold.


  1. Remind your child when they start to suck. Remember most of the time this habit is done unconsciously of what they are doing. Try not to scold your child. Yelling at them or being mean can make them want the comfort of sucking their thumb or fingers more. Praise them when they aren’t sucking. Reward them with a treat if they go all day without doing it.


  1. Cover their thumbs or fingers. Put mittens on them at night or times they would normally suck their thumbs. You can put Band-Aids, tape, or bandages on their hands. You can get cheap gloves and cut the fingers off for thumb suckers. You can cut all but the fingers they tend to suck on off for those that suck their fingers. You may have to bandage the mitten or a sock on so they can’t take it off when you leave the room.


  1. Some parents have even put natural substances on their thumbs such as hot sauce, lemon juice, or store bought bitter lotion or nail polish to make them not want to taste their fingers anymore.


  1. You can point out other children you see that don’t suck their thumbs. Start a conversation about kids on TV, cartoon characters, and people they know and show your child how they do not suck their thumbs. Find examples anywhere you can and point them out.



Some methods are not for everyone, pick and choose what you feel is best for your child. Many children will stop on their own, only about 10% will suck their thumbs past age 4. I do recommend starting the process around 2-3year of age to prevent permanent damage. Some children can be very challenging to wean while others give it up after it being pointed out several times.


Just remember it is in their best interest, they will still love you and it will prevent costly dental bills and pain later in life.  Please comment and give me your suggestions also.



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