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How Does Thumb-Sucking Start for Most Children?

How does thumb-sucking start for most children? While each child is different, this question has a relatively common answer. Parents often notice the non-nutritive sucking habit forming during infancy, before the toddler or preschool years.

The reasons for this noticeable behavior may vary. But at the core, thumb-sucking is a childhood habit driven by instinct and impulse. Let’s closely examine this adaptive function of young children.

A Pattern of Natural Sucking Reflexes

The earliest roots of a natural sucking reflex stem from time in the womb, as acknowledged by the oral health experts at Colgate. How then does thumb-sucking start for most children after birth? The majority of children who suck their thumbs begin the repetitive behavior as infants. The reason is simple—babies have natural rooting and sucking reflexes to either feed for nutrition or ground and comfort themselves.

Ergo, thumb-sucking is a non-nutritive sucking behavior and a powerful self-soothing tool for young children. The useful action is a vital coping method to alleviate stress, anxiety, boredom, or exhaustion during early childhood development. Thumb-sucking is not something parents need to prevent or stop until certain circumstances or negative influences arise.

When Instinct Becomes Habit

Generally, many children who begin sucking their thumbs by instinct also naturally stop on their own. However, numerous health issues and concerns can arise when the self-soothing instinct develops into a bonafide unbreakable habit.

According to Mayo Clinic, parents should be concerned about frequent or continued thumb-sucking when their child’s permanent teeth come in—around school age. Intervention is wise around age four or five, before the difficult-to-break habit creates a harmful long-term problem.

How To Address Frequent or Prolonged Habits

As previously mentioned, the long-term consequences of thumb-sucking can affect the health of a child’s teeth, bite, mouth, and palate. Thumb-sucking can also create other dangers to your child’s comprehensive growth and development. Parents should aim to halt and discourage the habit to proactively protect the future of their child’s well-being. Their future happiness and health are worth the time and effort.

Fortunately, thumb-suckers can break the habit by addressing the problem directly at the source. Identifying triggers, using positive reinforcement, and designing a reward system are excellent ideas for curbing thumb-sucking. For children that need physical reminders to deter the behavior, thumb guards are helpful products for successful results. Consider the AeroThumb by TGuard as a reliable and efficient solution.


“Helping Your Child Break A Thumb Sucking Habit” from Colgate

“Thumb sucking: Help your child break the habit” from Mayo Clinic