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The Best Approach To Wean a Child off Thumb Sucking

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All parents should learn the best approach to wean a child off thumb sucking so that they can manage the habit without hurting their child’s feelings.

Why Children Suck Their Thumbs

Newborn babies come into the world with natural sucking and rooting reflexes. In fact, even before birth, they may suck their thumbs inside the womb. Thumb sucking makes babies feel secure, which is why plenty of them carry the habit into their childhood.

Many kids suck their thumbs and fingers, so you should not attempt to stop your child’s habit as soon as they age out of infancy. But make no mistake, thumb sucking can become an addiction.

When You Should Step In

According to the Mayo Clinic, most children stop thumb sucking six or seven months or two to four years after birth. You should only be concerned about thumb sucking once your child has their permanent teeth in. Once they reach that point, persistent sucking can cause dental issues. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that you should limit thumb sucking in children right after they turn five.

The Best Method

If and when you have to stop a thumb-sucking habit, you must be ready to handle the problem using the best possible solution. The best approach to wean a child off thumb sucking is as follows:

  • Positive reinforcement: You can praise your child or give a small reward every time they go a specific length of time without thumb sucking. The reward could be a trip to the park or an extra bedtime story. Set reasonable goals, and stick to them.
  • Identify triggers: Children often suck their thumbs in response to stress. Pay attention to what stressors spark thumb sucking, and prepare other methods to reduce their anxiety. A stuffed animal, reassuring hugs, or kind words could be more powerful than thumb sucking.
  • Gentle reminders: If your child sucks their thumbs compulsively, it is vitally important that you don’t scold or degrade them. They really have no choice in the matter, so harsh words will only sting. Instead, gently remind your child to stop sucking their thumbs.

Many children are stuck on a thumb-sucking habit. Thankfully, with a bit of hard work, you can guide them out of this early addiction.


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