Published On:04 November 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Baby-Care: How to Stop Thumb Sucking of Baby

By Dr. Vivek Sharma

"You are not alone, you are not afraid, you don't need your thumb, and your thumb does not need you." – Dr. Parry Lyman on thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is one of the first coordinated act a baby can do that brings comfort and pleasure. For much younger children thumb sucking can be just a way to relieve the feeling of hunger. It is a comforting behaviour and doesn't usually need to be restricted. Parents usually start to worry too early, about how to stop thumb-sucking habit of their children. It is not necessary to stop thumb sucking before the age of four unless parents notice a problem in their teeth due to vigorous thumb sucking.

When thumb sucking becomes a problem?

• Thumb sucking causes serious teeth problems if it continues long after the eruption of permanent teeth. The problem gets more serious if it continues after the age of four and five.

• Prolonged finger and thumb sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth, or bite problems.

• Child may also develop speech problems or problems with swallowing properly.

• Protrusion and displacement of front teeth are usual results.

• Malformation of teeth can affect the child's appearance and cause further emotional problems.


Most kids outgrow this behaviour by their preschool years and up until that point it is relatively harmless. Though beyond pre-school it can be a problem once permanent teeth start coming in. The best way to get your child to stop sucking her thumb is to find ways to help him do it.

Do's & Don'ts


- Talk about the 'bad' germs that are on our hands and how the child puts them in his mouth while thumb sucking.

- Carefully remove your child's thumb from his mouth during sleep.

- Give your child extra attention and observe if conflicts or anxiety provoke thumb sucking. If so, help him find more healthful ways to deal with stress.

- Reward your child for progress made towards his goal. Don't think of it as a bribe because it's something he has earned through effort.

- Paint something that tastes bad on his thumb, like vinegar or pickle juice. Don't do it forcefully or without his permission, but as a way of helping him achieve his goal. Then when he's engaged in television and sucks his thumb out of sheer habit, the bad taste will quickly remind him of what he's trying to accomplish.

- Distract your child when you see him putting his thumb in his mouth. If you engage him in an activity that requires both hands, he'll have to take his thumb out of his mouth to do the task. Keep the child's hands occupied with a toy, puzzle, or other interesting activity.

-‘Give the example of his friends that have managed to stop thumb sucking. Invite friends over that don't suck their thumbs for frequent play dates. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator and if he surrounds himself with kids who don't suck their thumbs, it will be easier for him to not suck his thumb.

- A pediatric-dentist can also install an oral appliance that makes it uncomfortable to suck his thumb and release pressure on the teeth and palate. This is important if his thumb sucking is affecting his oral development.


- Avoid putting your child down or describing him as being 'babyish'.

- Avoid nagging your child or turning this into a power struggle, the more anxious he becomes the more likely he will need the comfort of his thumb.

- It is not important to get your child to give up this habit if it is not causing any problem.

- Never punish or shame your child to resolve the problem. These types of negative action will hurt his self-esteem and only add to his anxiety.

If your child has not stopped thumb sucking by his third birthday, you should consider taking action to stop this habit if he is sucking on his thumb most of the day, if it is affecting his communication or social skills, if he is having trouble with his pronunciation of words, or if it is causing problems with his oral development. However, it is not as important to get your child to give up this habit if it is not causing any problems.

[Dr. Vivek Sharma is Consultant Paediatrician based in Jaipur and can be contacted at drvivek_sharma@rediffmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on November 04, 2011. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on November 04, 2011. Filed under , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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