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Thumb Sucking: Strategies to Help Children Stop

Thumb sucking is a comforting habit for many little ones and a common behaviour which is healthy and normal for infants. The majority of children will give up their attachment to their thumb between the ages of two and four years of age. If your child continues to suck their thumb for a long period after this some complications may occur, such as:

  • Thickened skin on their thumbs
  • Development of buck teeth or an overbite
  • A lisp due to their front teeth being pushed forward
  • Permanent dental problems, particularly if they older than seven and their second teeth are coming through.

Here Are Some Strategies You Can Try To Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb:

  • Remove the comfort triggers. If they suck their thumb when they are tired, make sure they are getting plenty of rest
  • Have activities ready that involve them using both of their hands, such as finger painting, riding a toy, riding on a swing or working with play dough
  • Use reminders that they shouldn’t be sucking their thumb, you could try placing a bandaid over their thumb
  • Don’t pressure, tease or embarrass them about their thumb sucking, this may actually cause an increase in the habit
  • Don’t try to pull their thumb out of their mouth if they are sucking it
  • Provide encouragement for each day that your little one does not suck their thumb.

Remember, it can be difficult to give up or change habits, so don’t be surprised if your child occasionally slips back. Make sure you are patient with them particularly in the first few days and be aware this may take a few attempts.

If you are still concerned about your toddler’s thumb sucking, make sure you seek help from your health care professional.