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When Will My Child Stop Sucking Her Thumb?

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Many children develop the habit of thumb sucking, even from the time they are still in the womb. The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes sucking as a "natural reflex" for kids.

Babies suck on fingers, thumbs or a pacifier to feel secure or to learn about the world around them. Older kids may thumb suck to relax and feel safe before falling asleep or to reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.

Usually, your son or daughter will outgrow this habit naturally, between the ages of 2 and 4. However, if your child continues with the habit of thumb sucking into the school-age years, dental problems may occur including shifts in teeth and changes to the shape of the mouth.

If you are a parent concerned that your child will never stop thumb or finger sucking, the first step is to simply ignore the habit. Punishment is not an effective way to get rid of a child’s unwanted habits, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, harsh words or punishment may upset your child, causing anxiety and more thumb sucking.

Praise your child each time he chooses not to thumb suck. Calm, gentle, quiet reminders and positive reinforcement will go further to change the unwanted behavior. If you suspect that your child sucks her thumb when bored, keep her hands and mind busy with fun activities.

If you notice changes in the roof of your child’s mouth or in the alignment of the teeth, it is time to call the dentist. According to the ADA, sometimes all a child needs to stop this habit is for the dentist to explain how the thumb sucking is hurting her teeth.

More aggressive thumb suckers may need a sock or bandage placed over the thumb at night to discourage them from thumb sucking. Your child’s dentist or physician can also prescribe a bitter solution to coat the finger or thumb. Another alternative is a device fitted in the mouth that makes thumb or finger sucking feel uncomfortable.


American Dental Association. Thumb Sucking. Web. 27, Feb. 2012. http://www.ada.org/2977.aspx?currentTab=1

American Academy of Pediatrics. Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking. Web. 27, Feb. 2012.

Reviewed February 28, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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EmpowHER Guest

Thumbuddy To Love helps children (ages 3-6) stop thumb sucking. It comes with a book and thumb puppet and success chart. Google Thumbuddy To Love or get it on Amazon. Dentist also carry it as a teaching tool for young ones to teach the importance of breaking the thumb sucking habit.

October 9, 2012 - 10:22am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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