When Thumb-sucking and Pacifier Use Become a Problem

When Thumb-sucking and Pacifier Use Become a Problem

Should parents be concerned if their children suck their thumbs or use pacifiers?

That depends on a few things.

Babies have a natural urge to suck and it is normal for them and young children to suck on their thumbs. In fact, your little one begins sucking on his thumb while still inside the womb. For children, this natural reflex can give them a sense of security. Young children often outgrow this habit between the ages of three and six. Usually, if the child is aged four years old and below, thumb-sucking and pacifier use do not pose any problem.

However, problems do arise (a) if your child sucks on his thumb or pacifier intensely, and (b) if he is still sucking his thumb at around six years of age.

When a child sucks on his thumb intensely, a callus may develop on his finger. Apart from that, continued thumb-sucking can also lead to dental and speech problems. One such dental problem is the improper alignment of his teeth which leads to the need for orthodontic treatment.

Young children who suck on their thumbs intensely or suck on their thumbs and/or pacifier beyond the age of four can also develop lisps and other speech problems.

Apart from these, children who suck on their thumbs/pacifiers may feel embarrassment and get teased by their peers.

What can you do to wean your child off of his thumb-sucking habit?

One of the worst things that you can do is to scold or punish your child. These will only make your child feel shameful and insecure, which will undermine your efforts to help him. Instead, try to frame things in a positive light.

Explain to your child why he must stop his habit and set rules that will help him stop thumb-sucking or pacifier use. It would also be helpful to use distractions that will keep his mind off his habit.

Praise, words of encouragement and rewards can also help your child become successful in this endeavor. You can even try making a deal with your child: Offer him a reward in exchange for stopping his habit.

Your child’s dentist can also explain to him the reasons why he should stop thumb-sucking and using a pacifier.

If all of these remedies fail and your child continues with his thumb-sucking habit, you may want to consider other treatment options. These include the use of thumb and mouth devices and behavioral therapy.

Have a totally rad day!

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