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At What Age Do Most Children Begin Sucking Their Fingers?

As a parent, it’s only natural to feel concerned about your infant’s or toddler’s habits, especially when it comes to finger-sucking. The good news is that sucking fingers or thumbs is a normal developmental phase that most children go through. Learn why some children begin sucking their fingers and at what age most children begin sucking their fingers. Also, explore how to gently break the finger-sucking habit.

When Do Children Begin Sucking Their Fingers?

Most children begin sucking their fingers or thumbs between the ages of two and four months. Ultrasounds have even revealed infants in utero sucking their thumbs. Some newborns may start thumb- or finger-sucking as early as a few weeks old, and some start later during their toddler years. Sometimes, children who stop sucking their thumbs may turn to finger-sucking instead, while some kids who never sucked their thumbs may start sucking their fingers.

Why Do Children Suck Their Fingers?

Thumb- and finger-sucking are comforting actions for children. Kids often rely on these habits to help them self-soothe, especially during periods of stress, boredom, or tiredness. This is a completely normal part of a child’s emotional development.

Dangers of Prolonged Finger- and Thumb-Sucking

While finger- and thumb-sucking are normal in infancy and early childhood, prolonged finger- or thumb-sucking can lead to issues in the future. Some potential problems include dental malocclusion, speech difficulties, and social stigmatization. Begin gently discouraging thumb- and finger-sucking by the time a child turns three or their permanent teeth begin to emerge.

Parents should be aware that persistent and vigorous thumb- and finger-sucking can negatively affect the shape of the mouth, soft palate, and jaw long before permanent teeth come in. Steps to break the habit should begin as soon as it’s practical to start.

How To Gently Break the Finger-Sucking Habit

Breaking the thumb- or finger-sucking habit can be challenging, but you can consider some gentle methods that are quite effective. Here are a few tips:

  • Distraction: If you notice your child sucking their fingers, engage them in an activity or game involving their hands, such as making things with Play-Doh or finger painting.
  • Positive reinforcement: Praise your child for not sucking their fingers and offer small rewards or incentives for progress.
  • Alternative comfort strategies: Give your child other sources of comfort, such as a stuffed animal or cozy blanket to hold or snuggle with instead of finger-sucking.
  • Identifying triggers: Identify situations or feelings that prompt finger-sucking and address them before they worsen the habit. For instance, provide a calming environment at bedtime.
  • Assistive devices: If these strategies don’t work, parents who remain at a loss on how to break a finger-sucking habit in their child can turn to the AeroFinger. This comfortable device covers the fingers and encourages children to break the habit by removing the pleasurable sensation of suction without causing the child distress. Instead, they simply lose interest in finger-sucking and find alternative ways to soothe themselves on their own.

Even when children are at the normal age when they begin sucking their fingers or thumbs, it’s important to encourage them to break the habit. Offer alternative methods of self-soothing and positive reinforcement to help your child move past this with a supportive approach.