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Thumb Sucking

thumb-suckingThumb-sucking is a common problem in children. Over 20% children are known to exhibit this problem, sooner or later. In infants, thumb sucking is normal and does not cause any problem. The habit disappears by the time the child starts eating solids. It is in the later years when, it becomes a problem. Children become so addicted to it that they feel incomplete without it.

What are the causes of thumb sucking?

thumb sucking habitIn infants, thumb-sucking is a normal phenomenon. Mostly when the baby has not had his fill of sucking the breast or the bottle, it is very natural for him to start sucking his thumb. It is only when the baby grows, that the habit becomes a worry in the minds of the parents.

Also, thumb sucking comforts the baby in the absence of the mother, by providing comfort that is within the reach of the baby. As you leave the baby, he sucks harder. He sucks instead of crying; uses the energy that would have gone into crying. It is so basic that your child may combine it with other forms of comfort, like cuddly toys, etc.

In some children, thumb sucking may also be a result of emotional insecurity. When parents are not able to give sufficient time and attention to their child, the child looks for security in other places.

What are the effects of thumb sucking?

irregular teeth due to thumb-suckingThumb sucking, if stopped before the child has his secondary teeth, usually does not leave any effects. It is only when the habit persists that some ill-effects can be noticed. Sometimes, due to thumb sucking, the child's front teeth can be pushed forward and the lower teeth can be pushed backward. The extent to which the teeth will be displaced depends upon how long the baby sucks, and in what position does she keep her thumb. But the displacement will not be permanent, as it is only the 'milk' teeth that are affected. The habit should not be continued after the child starts getting secondary teeth.

How can you cure your child of this habit?

The first thing that you should understand is that thumb sucking generally subsides by its own accord. There is no particular cure where thumb sucking is concerned. Rather you should make an effort to find out the underlying cause of the problem. If you think that you are not able to give enough time to you kid, you should make it a point to spend more time with him. Emotional insecurity in children can cause a number of problems, of which thumb sucking is one. There are a number of ways that can be adopted to stop your child from thumb sucking. Some of them are:

  • Make sure that you do not make aggressive attempts to break the habit.
  • Every time your child sucks his thumb, distract him and then gently take out the thumb from his mouth.
  • Do not make the child conscious of the fact that you don't want him to suck his thumb. Also do not make the child conscious of his own thumb sucking.
  • If the child is older, discuss with him that he has grown old and he should not be doing it now as other kids may laugh at him. Afterwards if he does it again, remind him gently and do not scold him.
  • You can also offer rewards to your child for not sucking his thumb.
  • To prevent the child from sucking his thumb in the night, corrective measures can be taken, which includes applying a bitter tasting medicine or leucoplast on the thumb.
  • Encourage the child to give up the habit in a friendly manner and do not impose your judgmental attitude on him.