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Tips To Break A Thumb Sucking Habit

Thumb sucking begins before birth and is a natural habit for many babies. Unfortunately, if allowed to continue it can have serious developmental effects on your baby. These effects can include misalignment of teeth and facial features, speech issues, and eating issues. Once the habit gets past a certain age it can be very difficult to break without hard work and diligence by both parent and child. It is important to note that thumb sucking is quite normal and a natural reflex for many children.

Top Tips For Thumb Sucking

-Do Not Encourage thumb sucking or pacifiers. Most parents do not like hearing their babies cry so if the thumg sucking or pacifier is able to soothe them it might be a good choice to calm the baby. However, it is important to remember the long term issues that can arise from this behavior. Choose a different option like holding the baby close to stop them from crying or sing a song to them.

-Pacifiers Are Better Than Thumbs For Sucking. A baby who sucks on a pacifier will exert less force against the teeth. This can limit long term effects but still not eliminate them. Another advantage of pacifier use is that they can be taken away and limit the time the baby has them. This is especially effective for babies learning to speak. If they are walking around with a pacifier all day they will learn to talk with it in their mouth. This will cause speech issues going forward.

-Do Not Dip Pacifier In Honey Or Something Sweet. This may soothe the baby but it will cause tooth decay and create havoc for a babies dental health.

-Try To Stop Thumb Sucking By Age 2. Once a child reaches the age of 2 the thunmb sucking habit becomes more emotional than a natural reflex. If the habit continues past age 2 it becomes very difficult to break.

-Keep Positive. The breaking of the thumb sucking habit will not happen overnight and will take time. Use positive reinforcement and make sure child is ready for the change. It is a part of the emotional and psychological development of a child. Whatever you do, do not turn it into a confrontation. You cannot force a child who is not ready to break the habit. Positive reinforcement can include the following:

1. Positive reward system. Keep a chart, use a favorite gift or treat to reward them.

2. Use a band aid or ribbon as a reminder.

3. Attach a sock with a few stitches to a pajama sleeve to help keep thumbs and fingers out of the mouth during sleep time.

4. If certain times of day are more prevalent make sure to keep them distracted during that time.

Thumb Sucking Conclusion

 Breaking the thumb sucking habit requires patience and discipline. It will not be an easy process for most. For the sake of your child’s development it is imperative you stop before it causes any damage. The long term benefits will outweigh the short term stress for you and your child.

© 2014, Marielaina Perrone DDS. All rights reserved. Henderson Cosmetic Dentist

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