Thumbsucking: When and How to Get Your Child to Stop


Now that you’re home with the kids 24-7, you have more time to work with them on developing good habits and eliminating others, like thumbsucking. Thumbsucking is a natural instinct that infants use to soothe themselves. Pediatricians claim it is one of the most common habits that kids pick up. But thumbsucking can easily become a hard habit to break. When and how should you stop it? Let’s take a look at what our doctors recommend.

How Long Should I Allow My Child to Suck His Thumb?

Allowing your child to suck their thumb is generally not an issue until they become older. However, one concern as they begin to crawl and move around is hygiene. Children are already more susceptible to getting sick because of their underdeveloped immune systems. And one of the worst things they can do is put their germy hands in their mouth.

But the biggest concern about thumb sucking is it can affect the way a child’s mouth develops. It can impact their teeth and their bite, which can lead to speech challenges, aesthetic issues, and problems chewing. In order to prevent these issues, doctors recommend getting your child to stop sucking their thumb by preschool age. We also recommend taking your child for dental checkups starting at the age of one.

How Do I Get My Child to Stop Thumbsucking?

Many parents who try to stop their child from sucking their thumb early on find that it is a battle they can’t win. In fact, pediatricians recognize that there’s not much you can do until the age of four, when your child understands more.  At this age, you can explain why it’s important to stop sucking their thumb. What can you do to help stop the habit?

1. Create a plan around how you will help your child break the habit. Get teachers and everyone in the family involved with the plan, so that the message and techniques are consistent.

2. Keep your child active to distract them from wanting to suck their thumb.

3. Give your child something to hold, like a toy or doll, to keep their hands busy.

4. Use positive reinforcement when your child does well. Praise them with words like, “I’m so proud of you for keeping your thumb out of your mouth all day.”

Is your child a nail biter? If so, stay tuned for some tips on how to get them to stop by liking our Facebook page or visiting our blog in the upcoming weeks.