Tricks and Tips for Kids to Stop Their Sucking Habit

If your child is over the age of 4 and has expressed a desire to quit, it is definitely an ideal time.

But where should you start?

Well triggers such as blankets, toys, hair pulling and stroking (theirs or another person’s), can contribute to sucking. Try putting blankies and teddies where they can be seen and not touched.

When watching tv or in the car, try a “busy box” full of legos, stress balls and playdough and distractions like puzzles. This helps to keep the hands occupied and away from the mouth!

Children that thumb and digit suck find that warmth and attention from both parents is helpful during the “quit” phase, so it is important not to try to stop the habit during busy and stressful times.

But if you find none of these things work, give us a call! We’re the experts and we’re here to help!

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Thumb Sucking...what's the big deal?

Why do children suck their thumbs?

I meet a lot of parents who are amazed at their child’s sucking. Many claim, “They’ve been doing it since they were in the womb,” and they’re not kidding.

Sucking is a primitive reflex that we are all born with, one that infants associate with warmth and safety.
It is the endorphins and dopamine that is produced in the brain during sucking that gives babies pleasure and comfort. As infants gets older, this self- soothing comfort can sometimes transfer to a finger, or a thumb or an object, still producing the same calming and relaxing effects.

Beyond the age of 18 months, however, if children are still sucking, it has merely become a habit or a symptom of a bigger issue.

But the big question is, when does thumb and digit sucking become a concern?

Prolonged and vigorous sucking can affect normal development of the jaws. The forces that are placed on the soft growing bones of the palate by the digits and thumb are not an ideal shape or pressure.

That role actually belongs to the tongue, which is meant to rest in the roof of the mouth shaping it into a nice horseshoe shape as the child grows. A child who sucks, however, generally has a habit of keeping their tongue in a low resting position, often underneath a digit or thumb.

The forces of the thumb can displace the adult teeth causing them to become maligned. For most parents, that statement translates into one word – “braces.” Although much cooler than when we were kids, its still a road most parents would prefer their child not to have to go down.

Kids who thumb and digit suck also have the potential to develop a mouth-breathing habit, callouses and cuticle infections and speech and articulation difficulties.

Some children are able to quit on their own, but others may need professional guidance. If you need help, give us a call!



Getting rid of the Dummy!

There is no doubt that sucking on a dummy can be soothing for a baby who is often distressed. Studies show that short-term use during infancy is not significant enough to cause worry. However it is the long-term use beyond infancy can be a concern. Studies show that children who use a pacifier after 12 months are more at risk of developing dental malocclusions, speech and language problems, exposure to bacterial infections, and most recently, a higher experience of acute otitis media, or ear infections.

If your baby is sufficiently contented and can be comforted in other ways, it is best to avoid using a pacifier. If you find she really needs it, it is recommended to limit use after 6-12 months.

If your child has become accustomed to frequent pacifier use and you would like to limit its use, do it gradually. Many children become very attached to their pacifiers and can begin sucking thumbs or fingers, tongue, lip blanket or other object when parents abruptly discontinue its use.

Begin limiting the use of the pacifier by only allowing its use at home, then only for shorter and shorter periods of time, then only at naptime or bedtime, then only at bedtime. When your child has become accustomed to using the pacifier only at bedtime, try to remove the pacifier after your child has fallen to sleep. You will have a few tears for a couple of days, but it will be worth it the long term for your child’s health and wellbeing!

As always, if you need further guidance, we are here to help.

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