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Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for babies. Some have been shown on ultrasound to be engaging in this action while still in the womb. In case you haven’t noticed, babies often put their thumb in their mouth when they are crying or irritable. It is a soothing action that makes them feel better. Think of the action as a natural pacifier.

But thumbs are just the beginning. Your baby will also suck on their toes (if they can reach them), clothes, toys and anything else they can get their hands on. It is their way of examining the universe around them.

One concern that parents have is that thumb sucking may ruin their child’s teeth. Sucking the thumb can push the teeth forward and move them out of alignment. It can affect the formation of the roof of their mouth also.

With baby teeth, this is not such an issue. These teeth will fall out in time anyway. But, once permanent teeth come in, the effects of thumb sucking are more noticeable.

If you are beside yourself because your toddler is still using that thumb, gauge the circumstances in which they are using it. At bedtime, a thumb can help them fall asleep. Once they are down for the night, you can remove their thumb from their mouth.

Many kids stop using their thumb when they start teething. It can be quite painful when teeth break the gum line and they will turn to their thumb for comfort. Many find that something harder and colder works better. They swap their thumb for a teething ring or frozen waffle.

If teething doesn’t break the habit, try giving them something else to do at bedtime. Tiring out your little one with play before bedtime can help them fall asleep faster without needing their thumb. Try reading a book or giving them a bath beforehand. Other soothing acts can replace the thumb-sucking action.

Help your child notice that no one else in their class is sucking their thumb. As he becomes aware of this, he will be more likely to stop the action in front of them. No longer dependent on the thumb, the action may stop altogether.

Whenever you notice the thumb popping back into the mouth, suggest activities that take two hands so the thumb is not available. Over time, they will find interest in other things more appealing.

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