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How to stop Thumb-sucking in kids?

Help your kid go thumb-free

7 minute read, Written By: Momly

Hey mummas, are you finding it hard to encourage your babies to stop thumb-sucking? You have tried finger mittens and yet you see them sucking their sweet little thumbs? You are end of your tether and just don’t know how to move away the thumbs that are strongly tethered to your babies’ mouths? Do not worry. We hear you. You are not standing out but very much one with the world of moms as most of the moms have seen this behavior in their babies. Here we spoke with moms who were facing this behaviour in their babies and, in exchange, we learnt some tried and true ways from them to reduce thumb-sucking and these are must-try.

  • Understanding Thumb-sucking in kids

Thumb-sucking in kids is quite normal and very common in kids. This habit starts when they are babies and can go up till the age of 5 or 6. Sometimes, this habit withers away on its own but sometimes, parental intervention is needed to do away with this habit. Also, too much thumb-sucking results in pressure in dental area and can lead to teeth damages at an early age.

  • Does it indicate emotional problems in kids?

Kids seek comfort and security around them. They don’t have enough vocabulary express their emotions and feelings. The first instinct to find refuge is in the familiar aspects. For infant and breastfeeding babies, it is quite natural to latch on to moms’ breasts. Once they grow a bit big, new habits ventures to take up the familiar zone. And that exactly when the need to suck their thumbs take root in them. That doesn’t mean they are going through some emotional upheaval. “Thumb sucking is a result of oral fixation. Oral stage of psychological development is something kids go through from 0 – 2 years”, says Momly mom Amrita Saluja.

To sum up, thumb-sucking is a self-soothing mechanism that kids develop at an early childhood which can be curbed using effective tips.

  • Consequences of Thumb-sucking:
    1. §Dental problems – Dentists claim that thumb-sucking can disrupt the alignment of upper and lower teeth. Even the roof of the mouth gets aligned improperly with thumb sucking. Chronic thumb sucking causes narrow palate and protruding upper teeth/jaw. In severe dental issues, there are dental appliances to fix and stop this habit.
    2. §Social impact – Thumb-sucking when prolonged after the age of 4 can make the kids embarrass in front of public. Kids of the same age will tease, call names and make fun of the behaviour. This will impact the friendships and isolate the kids, which will further affect their mental and emotional health.
    3. §Speech disorders – Thumb-sucking can affect speech in kids. Lisp is a common speech disorder that is associated with continuous thumb-sucking
    4. §High chances of Hand Foot Mouth (HFM) and other bacterial infection – HFM is highly common condition that is characterized by many factors. One of them is poor hand hygiene. Not washing or poor washing, putting the soiled thumb to suck make the bacteria dwelling on hands to move inside the body, making the body vulnerable and breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Tips to undo Thumb-Sucking in kids

Remember, changing your baby’s habit requires patience. Do not force her to stop thumb-sucking habit. It will only backfire to worse and net result will not be positive. However, do not lose hope as we have some incredible ways that will put this habit to rest.

Distract and Direct – “Offer them some toy when they suck their thumbs”, says Avani Jain, Momly mom. Distract their mind slowly using some prop like toy, book or some sound and then direct their mind to these elements by launching an interest in kids’ minds.

Engage with fun activities – Just like starting any habit requires parental involvement, stopping a habit too seeks your attention. Rather than intervening with their thought pattern of thumb sucking, giving them attention by engaging them with fun activities works wonders. Tap into their interests by talking to them. Gain insight on their favourite activities and join them so that slowly the pattern of this habit starts to shift to more productive engagement. Kids when occupied and busy are less prone to thumb sucking habit as against the kids who are not actively involved in anything.

Sleeping with favourite toy – Kids sleeping alone sometimes self-soothe by sucking their thumbs or putting their fingers inside their mouths. “To break this habit, give them their favourite toy or stuff toy/animal”, Avani adds, “Let them cling to them for support if they are just starting to sleep on their own bed”.

Talking therapy – For slightly older kids, talking to them about negative impact of thumb sucking like how it will affect their teeth alignment etc. Give them resource material that states the consequences of this behavior. Help them to self-soothe like teaching them meditation, journaling, deep breathing techniques or reading a story book.

Rewards and stickers – For younger kids, rewards like giving stars on their hands is enough to win their hearts. Create a weekly score card or reward system. Reward them when they don’t suck their thumbs. Once they collect enough rewards for the week, you can be more appreciative by taking them to a nature walk or play dates.

Munchies – “Offer them sippers for liquids. Munchies is a great way to keep our kids occupied with chewing for a longer period of time”. This would calm the urge to suck their thumbs, offers Amrita

Bottom-line – Breaking a habit requires patience and perseverance on your part. Practice one idea at a time and provide your kids, a supportive environment by encouraging them in each step so that they don’t feel pressure or obligation to stop and instead, it happens organically.

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