thumb sucking habit

How to Stop Your Child’s Thumb Sucking Habit

May 27, 2021

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Thumb sucking is the first way that babies cope with their emotions. Most infants immediately start sucking their fingers or thumbs when they are born, when they’re not feeding. While it begins as a harmless coping mechanism, it can cause physical problems and lead to the obstruction of emotional skills needed for adulthood. This is why you should do whatever you can to help your child stop the bad habit of thumb sucking.

Read below and our previous coverage for the reasons why you should get them to stop their thumb sucking habit and how you can help them.

Physical Problems

When your child sucks their thumb, it can lead to some damaging physical problems. First, if the child sucks their thumbs a lot it can cause malocclusion. Malocclusion of the teeth is when either one row or both rows of the teeth are misaligned. The teeth point outwards in an over bite or an open bite. The prolonged moisture from thumb sucking leads to all kinds of skin irritation including rashes, ingrown nails, peeling of the skin, callusing, and other issues. You can cause an infection in both the mouth and on the thumb. Finally, thumb sucking can cause a speech impediment, which also leads to communication and social issues.

Social Problems

Since thumb sucking is often a way to deal with emotions and is a substitute for communicating their feelings, it can lead to social problems. When the child can’t talk to people, they will internalize their emotions and have difficulty communicating with others. Furthermore, other children might make fun of your child when they suck their thumbs. This can lead to a vicious cycle of comforting with thumb sucking and being made fun of for it. It will also obstruct their emotional development.

How to Stop Your Child’s Thumb Sucking Habit

Emotional Development

Thumb sucking has to stop in order for the child to develop new coping skills and emotional mechanisms. If they continue the habit, it will be hard for them in the future. They won’t be able to handle their emotions and to communicate them to others. Some psychologists even believe that prolonged thumb sucking may lead to other addictive behaviours. It can be a sign of negative things to come in adulthood. Some even continue sucking their thumbs.

Thumb Sucking Devices

One of the best ways to combat the bad habit of thumb sucking is to use a thumb sucking device. There are a wide variety of products you can use to discourage the habit. First, you can use thumb covers like thumbsies and thumb guards. A thumbsie is a cloth cover that prohibits the child from sucking on their skin. It won’t be as satisfactory as it is when they are sucking just the thumb. A better version of it is a thumb guard. This plastic guard that wraps around the wrist and prohibits the child from sucking on the thumb. It is a better option because you can’t really suck on the plastic.

Another useful product that can help your child quit thumb sucking is a form of nail polish. A specialized form of nail polish, it is transparent and tastes bitter. Children don’t have a developed palate and hate the taste of bitterness. This will discourage them from sucking their thumbs because they won’t be able to handle the taste. Over time they will stop the habit because it won’t be pleasurable anymore.

Finally, elbow guards will completely disable the child from bringing their hand to their mouth. It will make the kid unhappy because it immobilizes them but it can be very helpful. Of course, you can’t use this all of the time, but if you use elbow guards with other products you should be able to get your child to stop.

See a Doctor

If you have tried all of these methods and nothing has worked, you can always take your child to see a doctor or specialist. They will be able to tell you why your child is continuing the habit and how to best get them to stop. However you look at it, thumb sucking has to end for the betterment of your child. Do whatever you can to put an end to the habit. Your kid might hate you at first, but they will thank you in the end.

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