How can you get rid of your baby’s thumb sucking habit?

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 4, 2024

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 4, 2024

Your baby happily sucked his/her thumb whenever they were fussy, hungry, sleepy or even bored. The same thumb sucking that looked cute on your 4 month old baby doesn’t look so good on your now 4 year old child. Dentists say thumb sucking up to 4-5 years of age is acceptable.

Thumb sucking after the age of 5 years leads to a lot of problems like protruded teeth, poor jaw alignment, oral fixation etc. Most kids wills stop sucking their thumbs on their own by the time they turn 5. Their emotional development helps them to overcome their dependence on seeking comfort from thumb sucking. But even if your child doesn’t stop the habit by 5, it is ok.

Each child is different and they all have their own pace of physical and emotional development.   As parents, it is important to understand that thumb sucking is more of an emotional habit. So a little patience will go a long way in helping your child break the habit.

Getting rid of your baby’s thumb sucking habit once and for all

Do not be harsh – Being rude and harsh to your kids will drive them into their own cocoon. A lot of children start thumb sucking to deal with anxiety in the first place. Therefore, being harsh and shaming them for the habit, will cause them to do it even more. So be kind and gentle.

Talk to them – A lot of parents consider this to be a futile exercise, but you’ll be surprised to see how much your child understands. Having a meaningful chat with them; tell them why it is important to stop their habit and how it will affect them in the future. This will help them reduce the habit and maybe even stop it.

Distract them –Kids are easy to distract. Find what triggers their thumb sucking and give them some distraction every time they reach for their thumbs. If they suck their thumbs while sleeping, give them a blanket or soft toy to comfort them. If boredom/TV is the culprit, give them engaging games. Make sure that they do not replace thumb sucking with other bad habits like eating chocolates or nail biting.

Show them videos – Videos are a fun and easy way to help your kids understand why thumb sucking is bad. A lot of videos are easily available on YouTube, which tells them all about thumb sucking and its consequences. Make this a fun activity and don’t force it upon them as a punishment.

Mittens – If all the ‘tell and show’ methods have failed, then it’s time to ‘DO’. Put mittens or socks or gloves on their hands as a reminder to not suck. The rough texture and the feeling of impairment puts a lot of kids off this habit for good. Make sure to secure their hands properly so that they cannot take the mittens off on their own.

Ointments – Baby safe ointments and varnish or nail polish are easily available. These are painted on to the nail or the tip of the thumb. They are bitter or pungent in taste and discourage the kids from sucking their thumb. Do not over do this as excessive consumption of the ointments can cause stomach ache.

Thumb guard – This is a type of bandage that is put around the wrist and thumb. This secures the thumb is a fixed position and doesn’t allow them to move or suck the thumb. Make sure to get the correct size and fit for your child’s hand.

Oral cribs – If everything else fails, then your dentist will have to intervene and place a metal crib inside your child’s mouth. It is custom made to fit your child’s mouth and doesn’t allow them to get an oral seal to suck their thumbs. This not only breaks the thumb sucking habit but also discourages the tongue thrusting habit that some kids develop to replace thumb sucking.

So be kind and nudge them in the right direction. Ask your dentist’s recommendation for the best suited option for your child. Visit your dentist as soon as your baby turns one. Regular dental visit will help your dentist to catch and correct such bad habits and other dental problems early.  Brush and floss your and your baby’s teeth regularly to maintain a good oral hygiene routine.

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Author Bio: Dr. Apurva Chavan is a dentist by the day and a voracious reader and writer by the night. She loves to fix smiles and tries to keep all her procedures as pain free as possible. Equipped with over 5 years of experience she loves to not just treat her patients but also educate them about dental hygiene and appropriate maintanence routines. After a long day of preserving smiles she loves to curl up with a good book or pen down some of life’s musings. She strongly belives that learning never stops and likes to keep her self updates with all the latest dental news and research.

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