Are you one of those parents always trying to pull your child’s thumb finger out of the mouth and continuously cautioning against sucking on it? Then, read on how to break the habit.

Thumb Sucking Boy Sleeping

Thumb sucking often termed as a ‘bad habit’ could be very annoying to parents and also to the others. Though a common habit, it has to end at one point of time and as a parent it’s your job to ensure and stop the child from doing it again and again.

Doctors explain the habit as a ‘natural phenomenon’ as babies tend to have rooting and sucking reflexes that makes them feel very secure. Few children find it as a soothing experience or an easy way to get sound sleep.

The Negative Effects of Thumb Sucking:

Many children stop sucking on their thumbs by the time they turn two,  but a few tend to continue even after getting into their preschool. Few children may revert back to the habit if they feel stressed or anxious at the school.

However, continuing with the habit beyond 3 years of age may have adverse effects on a child.

1. Thumb sucking pushes the teeth around and it may not properly align the front teeth making it look protruded.

2. Speech may get affected, a lisp can occur due to the positioning of the jaw bone.

3. Germs, bacteria easily enter the body causing various diseases and infections.

4. The roof the mouth can become altered and very sensitive to touch, food items.

5. Continuous sucking of thumb causes callus on the finger. In rare cases, it may need a minor surgery to remove it.

How To Stop Thumb Sucking

Do not worry about the habit till your baby starts teething. In most cases, it will go away on its own. However, if your child is continuing even after turning 3 years, it’s time to step in.

1. Talk To Your Child: Sit with your child and talk about it. Explain why is it a bad habit and encourage to leave it. If the child is doing it just to get your attention, ignore it. The kid will eventually stop it.

2. Use Rewards: Praise your child or reward for the good behaviour. Promise trip to the favourite play area, food item, an outing if he or she agrees to stop it. Also keep a record of how many hours they spent without putting finger in the mouth and reward accordingly.

3. Triggers: Few kids resort to thumb sucking in response to stress, anger, anxiety and other variety of emotions. Identify what’s triggering the response. Hug, reassure your child and help to calm down when these triggers flare up. Also encourage the child to hug a favourite toy while sleeping instead of sucking on the thumb finger.

4. Handle Gently: Handle the entire situation gently, be supportive of your child’s feelings. Do not scold, criticize or discuss publicly about the habit. In public, gently remind the child to stop sucking on the thumb to save from embarrassment.

5. Doctor’s Help: Seek a friendly pediatrician’s help in dealing with the issue. Few kids may listen to their doctor or teacher’s advice seriously than parents at home and may follow it.

While negative reinforcements are not recommended, it can be done in few rare cases. If your child is not responding to the gentle ways, rub some bitter gourd juice or vinegar on the thumb that would discourage him/her from sucking on it.