Ways to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

It is perfectly natural for babies to suck their thumbs, and sometimes they begin this habit while still in the womb. Thumb sucking can make babies and young children feel safe and secure and is a way of self-soothing or helping them go to sleep. Usually, most children will quit this habit between the ages of two and four or stop due to peer pressure when they start school. However, even a child who has quit thumb-sucking can sometimes revert to this behaviour if they feel anxious or stressed.

When Is Thumb Sucking a Problem?

The habit is generally harmless until your child begins to get their permanent teeth, as, at this stage, it can affect how their upper palate or the roof of their mouth begins to develop and the alignment of their permanent teeth. The degree of risk depends on how often your child sucks their thumb and the intensity of this habit.

What to Do to Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

If you are concerned about this habit, talk to your child and explain why you would like them to stop. Usually, you will have more success if your child wants to stop already and can become actively involved in choosing the method involved. Some children use thumb-sucking as a way of getting attention, so if this is the case, ignoring them could be enough to help them quit. Otherwise, try one of the strategies listed below.

Positive Reinforcement

When your child manages not to suck their thumb, offer them lots of praise and perhaps small rewards like a trip to the park or another nice activity. Set reasonable goals with your child, such as no thumb sucking an hour before bedtime and get a calendar and some stickers to record how frequently your kid sticks to these goals. When your child does forget and sucks their thumb, gently remind them but don’t criticise as this could make them feel stressed and more likely to suck their thumb.

Identify When Your Child Is More Likely to Suck Their Thumb

Watch when your child sucks their thumb and try to identify what triggers this habit. Some children suck their thumb when they feel stressed, tired or need reassurance or comfort. Instead of sucking their thumb, reassure your kid, offer them a hug, or have their favourite stuffed animal for them to cuddle.

Ask Us for Help

If your child is really struggling to quit, come and see us. We can assess their teeth and jaws to see if this habit is causing any harm, and if so can talk to you about alternative methods that might help. One strategy that can be helpful is for us to talk to your child directly, explaining why it is important for them to quit. Sometimes it’s more helpful for a child to hear this from their dentist rather than their mum or dad. When a child finds quitting exceptionally difficult, we can provide a small custom-made oral device that physically prevents them from sucking their thumb.

Nov, 10, 2022