Thumb Sucking Causes and Treatment

Baby Thumb SuckingWhen infants are born, they have the natural need to suck to obtain the proper nutrition. This sucking instinct allows infants to receive nutrition from the breast or bottle. As children grow, the natural need to suck diminishes when solid foods are introduced. However, some children have a powerful need to suck and begin sucking their thumb. While thumb sucking is one of the most common habits in young children, it can become a chronic problem that is difficult to break.

Parents who want to know how to stop thumb sucking must first understand its cause. Babies who breastfeed may begin this habit after feeding because it is soothing. Many children do not begin sucking their thumb until they are weaned from the breast or bottle. If children are tired, irritable or hungry they may also sooth themselves in this manner. Stress can also cause children to pick-up this habit. Some common causes of stress include the arrival of a sibling, moving to another location, starting preschool or a divorce.

While many children who suck their thumb stop on their own, others cannot seem to break the habit. Thumb sucking is considered to be a chronic problem when children continue this habit beyond age four. When children suck their thumb at home and at school, it is another sign of a chronic condition. Children who have a chronic thumb sucking problem will suck their thumb at any time of the day or night.

Chronic thumb sucking must be addressed because it can cause oral health problems. Children who have this condition often have large spaces between their teeth or gaps between their top and bottom teeth which is noticeable when their mouth is closed. Children may also develop problems swallowing and may have difficulty pronouncing words correctly. Some other common problems in children with this condition include thumb calluses and infections around the thumb nail. Chronic thumb suckers may also suffer emotional distress from being teased by their peers at school.

Children often want to stop thumb sucking on their own but cannot. Parents should avoid punishing or scolding their child for this habit, as it could cause stress and worsen the problem. Implementing a reward system may help children stop on their own. Praising children for not sucking their thumb is important, as well.

While the majority of children who suck their thumb stop on their own, some may require treatment to quit. Most dentists do not recommend treatment for this condition until the child is over four years of age. Others do not recommend treating this condition until the child wants to know how to stop sucking thumbs on their own.

Liquid products are available by prescription and are often an effective way to stop thumb sucking. These products work by causing a bitter taste to occur when the child puts their thumb in the mouth. Covering the child’s thumbs with items such as thumb guards or thumb gloves can also deter thumb sucking. Dentists may consider placing a device inside the child’s mouth if oral problems arise. These devices are placed on the roof of the mouth and left until the child has quit sucking his thumb for at least three to four months.

Children can successfully break this habit when parents are supportive and seek treatment when the condition becomes chronic. Being loving and supportive is also key to restoring the confidence some children lose when they suck their thumb.

Author Bio

Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @