10 Ways to Stop Thumb Sucking in Children

Thumb Sucking in Children
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Thumb sucking is a major source of pleasure for infants and toddlers. It is usually a struggle to get them to stop once they have been doing it for a while. It is advisable to stop this before it is too late.

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Consistent thumb sucking can have a permanent effect on their jaws, shape, bite and teeth. It can also cause speech impairment, and a lot of kids engaged in chronic thumb sucking will require speech therapy.

For a newborns, sucking of the thumbs and fingers can be a regular activity. It helps the infants to unwind and relax. However, this activity should start raising eyebrows once the infant becomes a toddler of 3 years and above.

Once this age has been reached and the thumb sucking is still active, it is a cause for concern. This is when the parents or guardian should swing into action.

Toddlers who still suck on their thumbs and fingers usually have a gap between their lower and upper teeth. Their jaw development is negatively affected, leading to speech impairment or deficiency.

Thumb-sucking, at this stage, prevents the tongue muscles from developing correctly. This makes the pronunciation of certain sounds extremely difficult.

It is disastrous for a parent to wait for the child to develop permanent teeth before stopping thumb-sucking. This can lead to the development of buck teeth and an unattractive appearance.

Thumb sucking is a bad habit that should be discouraged in infants and toddlers.

Ways to stop thumb sucking

There are various ways to stop this bad habit in infants and toddlers. For your plan to be effective, it is recommended you combine several methods. The various ways include:

Talking

It is your obligation as a parent to talk to your child and let them know why sucking on their thumbs is a bad habit. Talking on its own isn’t enough to break this bad habit, but it can be a big step. Talking can be the motivation your baby needs, and that has already solved half of the problem.

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You might be wondering what kind of things you can talk about to your child. Here are some pointers:

  • Germs

They are usually on the surface of our fingers and thumbs and sucking on them makes you swallow these germs in the process. Doing this can make you very sick.

  • Teeth

Thumb sucking makes your teeth grow or develop forward. This gives you an unattractive look and might require dental braces.

  • Teasing

You can make your child understand that this habit will be laughed at when done outside. No child likes being the object of ridicule so it might make them stop.

  • Speech

Sucking on your thumb consistently from infancy to the toddler stage will affect speech development. You won’t be able to speak well.

YouTube

This is a cheap and very effective way to stop thumb sucking in your child. There was an instance where a child was shown six videos on YouTube about thumb sucking.

In the process of watching one of the videos, the child stated that she was done thumb-sucking. Children listen better and are more likely to stop when hearing about a bad habit from an external source.

Chewables

Children derive immense pleasure from oral stimulation. This is why it is hard to get them to stop thumb sucking. The best way to stop a certain habit is to create another.

Replacing what your child is sucking on is a very effective way of stopping them from this bad habit. Chewables (not necessarily edible) can be gotten for your child from any store including pacifiers.

Get familiar with your child’s favorite thumb sucking periods

Thumb Sucking in Children
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Generally, children are more likely to thumb-suck when watching TV or sleeping. You can observe your child and observe the key periods they elapse into this habit.

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This could be vital in helping them work with you to stop it. If they usually do it while sleeping, you could put clean socks on their hands and lock them with safety pins. If it is generally done when they watch TV, switch the TV off temporarily.

Positive reward system

You can create a chart and come up with positive rewards for success. If your child goes a whole day without sucking, then you should encourage them by making the reward more attractive.

You can progress from an hourly chart to a daily chart. When you notice it’s been two weeks without any incident of thumb-sucking, progress has been made!

Praise your child when they make an effort to stop this habit

Always ensure you praise your child for not sucking for at least 1 hour. Do this once every hour by setting up an alarm or reminder to help you remember.

Bad-tasting nail polish

This can be very effective, as well. This isn’t done for cosmetic purposes but for the sole purpose of stopping fingers and thumb sucking. Also, you might have to change the nail polish brand from time to time.

This is because your child might adjust to the taste in extreme cases of finger sucking. Either find a brand whose taste your child dislikes or alternate among brands.

The nail polish option comes with advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

  • They are affordable or pocket-friendly
  • It dries quickly, and it is clear plus it isn’t messy
  • it can remind and motivate kids about their need to quit sucking on their fingers and thumbs
  • It keeps the hands free and doesn’t require the usage of gloves or other finger coverings
  • Most times, the nails are transparent, so it isn’t obvious that your child is using nail polish

Disadvantages

  • If your child is a chronic thumb or finger sucker, they might suck the polish off or adjust to the taste
  • You will have to deal with unpleasant moments, such as your child crying or getting fussy. This mostly happens during the early stages of this method when they are forced out of their comfort zone. Once your child proceeds to suck and get a bad taste, be prepared for the noise that will follow
  • Some nail polish washes off easily, especially cheap brands.

Plastic covers for thumbs and fingers

These are highly rated options, and they stick to the fingers well; making it difficult for the kids to get it off. If this option is used for two weeks, your child will gradually adjust and get used to it.

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But the downside to it is that they restrict these kids from using their hands or the hand preferred for thumb sucking. It makes it hard for them to hold objects or feed themselves.

Cloth covers or gloves for fingers and thumbs

This is a better option than the plastic covers because they allow the kids to be able to use their hands more. They are also easy to remove, but it is less effective in stopping thumbs and fingers sucking. Unless they are fastened with a safety pin, they are pretty easy to remove.

Hand Stopper

This option is very effective, and it works by restricting the elbow from moving enough to get the fingers or thumb in the mouth. It is very easy to put on and difficult to remove.

This option is so effective than it doesn’t need a backup option or method. This method makes kids less functional or active. It prevents them from being able to feed themselves, plus it is also expensive.

Whatever your choice, always ensure to consider the safety of your child. You and your partner can discuss with other people who have experience in dealing with thumb-sucking in babies.

Thumb Sucking in Children
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Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.
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