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Should I Stop My Baby From Thumb Sucking?

Help your child break the habit of thumb sucking

 

Ultrasound pictures may sometimes show your baby thumb sucking! For some babies, sucking their thumbs provide comfort and a way to self-soothe. Others may suck their thumbs when hungry. Apart from looking somewhat awkward, especially if the baby has ‘graduated’ to kindergarten, is there any harm in thumb sucking? We explore four reasons why thumb sucking can be harmful and six ways to help kick the habit!

 

Here’s 4 Reasons Why Thumb Sucking Can Be Harmful For Your Baby!

 

#1 Dental Issue

 

If thumb sucking becomes a habit that carries past nursery age, it can potentially lead to buck teeth (also known as an overbite as the upper set of teeth cannot align naturally with the lower set and protrude). There is a risk that as thumb sucking becomes more intensive, the constant pushing of the thumb against the inside of the upper front teeth lead to misalignment.

 

#2 Infection

 

This is quite common for kids with nail biting or finger sucking habit. The bacteria in the mouth gets into the skin where the thumb joins the skin and causes infection. The thumb looks red, swollen and tender to touch, and requires an experienced doctor using a sterilized needle to release the pus. The thumb should then be bandaged properly and sometimes warrant a repeat consultation to observe for further infection.

 

#3 Spreading of Bacteria

 

For children in preschool or with other siblings, touching toys (with bacteria and germs from other children) and putting fingers in the mouth increases the chance of falling ill or getting stomach upset. For many families in Singapore who send their children to full day childcare, it would be wise to stop the child’s thumb sucking habit early.

 

#4 Social Issue

 

Older kids who continue with their thumb sucking habit may get teased by their friends – for being unhygienic, acting like a baby or disgusting. For the chronic thumb sucker who perpetually has a thumb in the mouth, it is an obstacle to make friends, smile and interact.

 

things you need to know about babies

Here’s 6 Ways To Kick The Thumb Sucking Habit!

 

#1 Provide Alternative Comfort

 

For babies who suck for comfort, try other ways to soothe them such as playing soothing songs, holding their hands and giving them more attention. Generally, the more attention and warmth given to a baby when young, the more likely he/she will be independent and less ‘clingy’ when older.

 

#2 Check for Signs of Hunger

 

If the thumb sucking frequently occurs a few hours after feeding, it may be that the baby is hungry. It is acceptable to feed on demand, versus on a strict schedule, and the former also lessens the likelihood of baby developing the habit of thumb sucking.

 

#3 Distract

 

Keeping fingers busy is a good way to reduce thumb sucking – it requires some effort on the part of caregivers as one has to be attentive to when the baby is going to suck his thumb and distract by playing games that occupy the fingers. Learning sign language for babies is a good way to distract while also increasing the vocabulary and giving babies an additional avenue to express themselves.

 

#4 Replace the Habit

 

Try to replace the thumb sucking habit with another, such as closing the rest of the fingers over the thumb. You can also help your child by noting when the thumb gets sucked most frequently and work towards doing an alternative activity (Bad habits tend to surface when fingers are idle, such as when watching TV).

 

#5 Show the Consequence

 

For children who are older, you can try borrowing books and using stuff toys with buck teeth to explain why thumb sucking is not good.

 

#6 Bitter Thumb

 

For older children, you can purchase over the counter bitter nail polish that is safe that will deter the child from sucking the thumb. Some parenting experts are against this while other medical practitioners feel that it is worth a try, especially if the child frequently gets infection from thumb sucking.

 

Most babies tend to outgrow thumb sucking by about three years of age, even without adult’s intervention. However for children who are still thumb sucking by age four, parents should bring the child to see a dentist and also explore ways to help kick the habit.

 

Written by Mei

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