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Ways to stop young kids sucking their thumb

 
Thumb sucking is common amongst young children and a natural comforter. However when it comes to certain aspects of their development, thumb sucking can become problematic. So how do you ease your little one off it when it’s time to stop?
Is your little one a thumb-sucker? We look at a few ways to help stop young kids from sucking their thumb.

Thumb-sucking is common amongst young children and a natural comforter. However when it comes to certain aspects of their development, thumb-sucking can become problematic.

So how do you ease your little one off it when it’s time to stop?
 

Why do kids suck their thumbs?


Children suck their thumb as a comforting reflex that can start as early as when they are in the womb.

Once they’re born, thumb-sucking releases endorphins and acts as a self-soother, like a dummy.

This reflex tends to last for 3-4 months, and then many babies find an alternative such as a soft toy or blanket to snuggle into.

Most children grow out of sucking their thumb before starting school. However for some, the thumb-sucking carries on and becomes a habit because they know it works.
 

The pros and cons of thumb-sucking


On the plus side, thumb-sucking can comfort young children, help them to relax and gives them security.

However the long term effects of thumb-sucking on kids teeth, especially when their adult teeth start to come through, can cause their teeth to grow outwards if their thumb is constantly pushing them forward.

Their speech can also be affected when they start trying to speak with their thumb in their mouth as they aren’t able to form sounds and words properly.
 

Tips on how to stop thumb-sucking


If you do want to help your little one to stop sucking their thumb, make it a gentle and gradual process.

Forcing them to stop straight away may encourage them to suck their thumb even more because they’re confused or upset.

Over a few days, gauge what time of day they’re most likely to suck their thumb? For instance, is it when they’re tired before a nap or bedtime?

Then it’s about distraction tactics and offering them an alternative option during those times, such as playing with a toy, reading a book, singing or dancing etc.

If they’re old enough, talk to them about their beautiful teeth and how not sucking their thumb will help them grow properly.

If your little one looks up to an older sibling or friend, perhaps mention how they’re a grown up girl or boy and don’t need to suck their thumb anymore and suggest to your little one that they might like to copy.
 
Pulling your child’s thumb out of their mouth each time it goes in may stress them, so avoid that unless they’re talking with it in. In that case, gently remove their thumb, encouraging them to speak without it in.

By gradually cutting back their thumb-sucking during the day, it will help reduce how much they rely on it at night.


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Image source: meandmychild.com.au
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