Thumb Sucking: Is It Really a Problem?

Thumb sucking is a perfectly normal reflex for a baby. In fact, many start before they are even born- I spotted my son sucking his thumb on an ultrasound, as well as pulling on his ear. With thumb sucking, children are soothing themselves by satisfying their natural urge to suck. Many people debate whether or not this is a bad habit to start, but what do experts say about it?

The fact is, babies should be able to figure out how to soothe themselves at some point. Any parent that has woken multiple times a night to plug a pacifier back in a fussy mouth would agree. Remember, pacifiers are a modern invention�what did babies have before them? Well, mother of course, but she may not want to provide a nipple all night to soothe a baby. That is where the thumb comes in to play. You see? Very natural.

Babies and toddlers suck their thumb whenever they are tired, upset, or generally need comforting. Soothing themselves back to sleep is a big milestone for an infant and thumb sucking can do just that. However, parents can become concerned that the thumb sucking will cause social anxiety and dental problems. You shouldn’t be worried about that when your baby is young, however.

It is estimated that 85-99% of all thumb-sucking children will give up the habit naturally, with no help on the parents’ part. While the habit can cause dental problems with teeth and jaw alignment, this won’t be an issue until the child is 4 or 5 years old. Dentists agree that as long as your child gives up thumb sucking before 4 years old, there will be no damage done.

Should your child have problems breaking their habit, do not try to forcibly stop them. The stress caused by that could cause them to want to suck their thumb even more. Let your child take his/her natural course with things. If your child expresses a desire to quit and needs help, then your doctor may have suggestions for you, such as coating the child’s thumb with vinegar. The best way to help him quit naturally, however, is by distraction from the thumb and by providing a loving, nurturing environment.

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