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How To Stop Your Child Sucking His Thumb

Thumb sucking is a natural comforter for kids, but here’s how to ease your child off gently when it’s time to stop

It’s a common habit, which most of us probably did when we were little. And while thumb sucking isn’t usually an issue for most tots, when it comes to certain aspects of development it can be problematic.

So, if you’re getting ready to help your toddler ditch their thumb for good, approach it in the best way for both of you.

Why he’s sucking his thumb

Sucking your thumb is a comforting reflex that can start when your baby’s in the womb.

‘When your child’s born, thumb-sucking releases endorphins and acts as a self-soother, like a dummy,’ says Claire Burgess, early years consultant at Norland College. ‘This reflex tends to last about three or four months, then many babies find alternatives like a comforter.’

READ: 5 BRILLIANT WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR TODDLER'S SPEECH

But for some, the thumb sucking carries on and becomes a habit because they know it works.

Understand the pros and cons

The thing with thumb sucking is that it isn’t always a problem. For many children it comforts and relaxes your child, and gives him security. Plus, it isn’t a loose object so it’s super-safe, especially at night.

READ: THE SIMPLE SUMMER GAMES GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOUR TODDLER ENTERTAINED

‘The downside comes when your child starts trying to speak – it’s important he learns to make sounds and words with his thumb out of his mouth so they form properly,’ explains Claire.

‘And when his adult teeth start coming through aged five or six, they can grow outwards if his thumb is constantly pushing them forward.’

Don’t go cold turkey

If you do want to help your child give up, make it a gentle and gradual process.
 
‘Forcing it may encourage him to suck his thumb more because he’s confused or upset,’ says Claire.

The thing with thumb sucking is that it isn’t always a problem. For many children it comforts and relaxes your child, and gives him security

Also gauge the time of day he’s mostly doing it over a few days, so you can work out the best approach. ‘Is it just at night or does he walk around with it in his mouth?’ says Claire. ‘Perhaps when he’s tired or in front of the TV?’
 
Then it’s about distraction tactics and offering his hands an alternative at those times, like a sensory ball, toy, or corner of that book you’re reading.
 
You could also talk to him about his beautiful teeth and how not sucking his thumb will help them grow properly. And if he looks up to an older sibling, perhaps mention how they’re a grown up girl or boy so don’t need to suck their thumb anymore.
 
‘Pulling your child’s thumb out of his mouth may stress him so avoid that unless he’s talking with it in. In that case, gently remove his thumb, encouraging him to speak without it,’ says Claire.

READ: WHY YOUR TODDLER'S BEING CLINGY - AND HOW TO COPE WITH IT
 
Cutting back in the day will help reduce how much he relies on it at night and keep in mind that most children do simply grow out of it.
 
How did you help your child give up thumb sucking? Let us know on the comments board below.

 
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