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Is Finger Sucking the Same As Thumb Sucking?

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Children are born with a natural and innate sucking reflex. While the primary reason is to feed, non-nutritive sucking is also commonplace for relaxation and self-soothing. Nearly three-quarters of all infants suck their thumbs or fingers during their first year of life, and many continue the behavior during early childhood until the practice becomes a hard-to-break habit.

Concerned parents may wonder: is finger sucking the same as thumb sucking? What are the potential side effects of prolonged sucking? What strategies can I use to stop my child’s finger sucking or thumb sucking habit at an appropriate age? Discover the answers to these questions with this guide.

Non-Nutritive Digit Sucking: Fingers vs. Thumbs

Non-nutritive sucking is any sucking behavior not pertaining to or providing nutrition. According to the Clujul Medical Journal, “non-nutritive sucking in infants is nearly universal and is considered normal.” Becoming prevalent in the womb and onward through early childhood, parents may notice an array of non-nutritive sucking habits in their children, including pacifier, soft object, finger, or thumb sucking.

But is finger sucking the same as thumb sucking? While the two practices are certainly related, they are not the same. The reasoning is straightforward: thumb sucking refers specifically to the thumb, while finger sucking refers to any other digits, such as the index, middle, ring, or pinky fingers. Children with a digit sucking habit can solely suck their thumbs or may suck on one or more of their fingers. The choice is simply a matter of preference, desire, or instinctive habit.

Taking Action: Signs To Watch Out For

While both are initially helpful, the potentially harmful side effects of these forms of non-nutritive sucking are the same, meaning parents should take action to alleviate prolonged digit sucking at the appropriate age. Stopping finger and thumb sucking habits around elementary school age is ideal for preventing developmental problems.

As knowledgeable pediatric experts note, children who increase their sucking to such a frequency or intensity may develop social and oral health issues. For this reason, take careful note of how often or how aggressively or passively your child sucks their fingers or thumbs. If concerned for their well-being, speak with a dental or medical professional to help assess the situation.

General Guidelines: How To Help Your Child

Regardless of whether your child sucks their fingers or thumbs, effective solutions are available for breaking an intense or prolonged habit. Basic home treatments can often do the trick, but more strategic approaches or specially designed devices are sometimes necessary for support.

At TGuard, we recognize how thumb and finger sucking both relate and differ, and have developed two beneficial treatment devices to address the habits. Easily stop a thumb sucking habit with the ergonomic AeroThumb kitor an alternative digit sucking habit with the AeroFinger. Learn more about the key features of these innovative products as effective treatments today.


Suckling and non-nutritive sucking habit: what should we know?” from the Clujul Medical Journal

Thumbsucking: Harmful or Helpful?” from Ask Dr. Sears