Thumb-Sucking Guide – Why Kids Do It and How and When to Get Them To Stop…

Newborn babies are born with several important reflexes that help them through their first weeks and months of life. These reflexes are involuntary movements that happen either spontaneously or as responses to different actions. The sucking reflex, for example, happens when the roof of a baby’s mouth is touched. The baby will begin to suck when this area is stimulated, which helps with nursing or bottle feeding. After all the newborn must be able to suck to get nutrients, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Thumb sucking also has the ability to soothe and calm the newborn. Thumb sucking can become a problem once the child is about 3 or 4 years old. Your pediatrician can provide you with the tips and tricks to help your little one grow out of this habit.

Thumb-sucking Tendencies

Thumb sucking is a natural tendency for babies and young children because it helps them to feel comforted and nurtured. The tendency typically goes away around 6 or 7 months. However, if thumb sucking continues for too long, it can cause damage in the long run to teeth and mouths. Improper tooth alignment and bite issues can also cause speech impediments over time.

When to Consider a Pacifier

It’s best to ensure that your baby has gotten the hang of breastfeeding (by around 3 or 4 weeks old) before you introduce a pacifier. That’s because the sucking mechanism for breastfeeding is different from that used for sucking on a pacifier. It is important to recognize when your child is sucking because they are hungry and whether they merely want to self-soothe. If your child still has an urge to suck and they don’t need to nurse, then a pacifier is a safe way to soothe and ease your child’s needs.

Pacifier While Sleeping

It is safe for your child to have a pacifier while sleeping, either at bedtime or naptime. Please remember that when the child is very young, they will not be able to put the pacifier back into their mouth so you will probably wake up to a fussy baby in the middle of the night when the pacifier falls out of their mouths. Never tie a pacifier on the cord around the baby’s neck to hold the pacifier and never tie the pacifier to the bed this can lead to a serious and potentially deadly injury.

How to Phase Out the Pacifier

Thumb sucking is a common, generally harmless child behavior. However, the medical community has different age ranges. The American Dental Association recommends that children stop using a pacifier by age 2. Because the persistent practice occasionally leads to dental, dermatological, orthopedic, and psychological problems.

Here are some tips to phase out the pacifier…

Just like any other addiction (physical or psychological), your child’s dependency on the pacifier may be best dealt with by taking it away a little at a time. This might make the process a bit easier, for both you and your youngster, even if it takes a little more time than some other methods.

  • Praise your child when they go without the pacifier. Do not tease or punish your child for using the pacifier.
  • Have some one-on-one time with your child. Sometimes pacifiers are used out of boredom. So, distract them by playing a game or with a toy to keep their hands busy.
  • If all else fails your pediatrician can recommend a thumb guard that can prevent thumb sucking. Be patient. All children eventually stop this habit.

Every child is different, and there’s no guaranteeing that any of these methods will work for every kid. You may have to take a trial-and-error approach to find out which method will do the trick for your little one. With a little patience and determination on your part, however, your child is sure to be pacifier-free in time for Kindergarten (hopefully)!

Contact Us (859-525-8181) if you have any questions!

About Pediatrics of Florence

We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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