Most children suck their thumb or fingers at one time or another. Some even suck their toes, wrists or forearms. But don’t worry, young parents – here’s help:
Born With It
Many babies have been known to do thumb-sucking while still in utero (in the uterus) which has been seen in antenatal ultrasonography. Blisters can be seen on the wrists and fingers of newborn babies as a result of intrauterine sucking. Thumb sucking comes naturally to a baby and is not related to any single factor like hunger, emotional insecurity or exploring the body. It is a habit largely observed in the newborn period and at the time of teething. It peaks between 18 and 21months. Most children gradually give up this habit by the time they reach the age of six, before their permanent teeth appear.
The act is also often associated with ear pulling, hair pulling or rubbing the nose with a doll or soft fabric or with sucking the blanket. The thing to remember is that children give up this habit on their own accord.
10 Tips to Help Stop Thumb Sucking:
- Keep your cool. Getting hassled about it will only transfer your worries on to your baby making her feel even more insecure.
- Do not pull your baby’s thumb out of her mouth every time she puts it in. You might just end up making her more obstinate.
- Do not tie bandages, put bitter pastes, paint bad tasting substances or any of these things – these normally backfire.
- Try to distract her attention by offering her a toy, which she has to probably take with both her hands. If not, you just might see the other thumb going in!
- Distract your child when the thumb goes in, by engaging her in an activity that requires using both hands. Clapping works well.
- Try rewarding her if she does not suck.
- Encourage her to give up the habit in a friendly way.
- Use peer pressure as a powerful motivator: invite your child’s friends over who don’t suck their thumbs.
- Make the child aware of this habit (without shaming or ridiculing), by having her look in the mirror when she is at it.
- Provide a substitute comfort activity and very importantly, refrain from lecturing or shaming.
Dr. Jyotinder Kaur,
Consultant – Paediatrician,