When it comes to putting a stop to a baby or toddler’s habit, thumbsucking has to be one of the most challenging. After all, it is not an option to take the thumb away as a parent would do with the bottle, pacifier or blanket.
Why Do Babies Suck Their Thumbs?
One of the reasons that putting a stop to thumbsucking is so difficult for parents is that it is a natural activity for babies. They did it in the womb and most, if not all, will continue to do it outside the womb, whether it is sucking their thumb, toes, a pacifier or anything within reach. After some time, babies can rely on thumbsucking as their only means to soothe themselves.
Why Should Thumbsucking Be Stopped Sooner Than Later?
If this habit continues into toddlerhood when a child is 2 years old and beyond, thumbsucking may begin to impede language development, have an effect on tooth development and put unnecessary pressure on a child’s jaw. This may eventually lead to a child needed braces or Invisalign. So, the big question now is, how to stop thumbsucking. Not only how to stop thumbsucking, but how to do it in a manner where a child will not have a complete and total meltdown for what seems like an eternity. Read on for the top 5 tips on how to stop thumbsucking once and for all!
5 Ways to Stop Thumbsucking
1. Limit thumbsucking to times and/or places when the child needs it most.
For example, most children tend to suck their thumbs to help them fall asleep, calm down after a tantrum or when they are encountering an anxiety provoking situation. Attempt to prevent thumbsucking during any other times, such as when playing in the park, sitting at the dinner table or watching television. This will diminish the frequency of thumbsucking and help slowly wean them off for good.
2. Germs, germs and more germs!
Explain how many germs end up on hands throughout the day and how unsanitary thumbsucking can be. Of course, do so in a child’s language so he/she understands what unsanitary means. Explain that little bugs called germs live on children and adults’ bodies, especially on hands because that is what we use to touch everything. If we suck our thumbs, those germs end up in our mouth and eventually in our bellies. This makes us sick and may keep us from being able to play with our friends and play outside.
3. Provide regular praise
Any time a child is observed not sucking his or her thumb, they should be praised so they realize they are not just being told when not to do it, but are also being reminded and praised when they are remembering not to. Children need regular praise throughout the day, regardless of the habit that is being encouraged or prevented.
4. Talk to children about thumbsucking
Ask them why they suck their thumbs? How does thumbsucking make them feel? What else can they do instead of suck their thumbs? Offer suggestions that don’t require another object to hold or always have with them. Give them a hug and encourage them to talk to you when they feel anxious, scared, sad or tired. Show children that you are able to help them get past any obstacle, thumbsucking included. This will carry on into bigger, more serious conversations and issues later on in life.
5. Glove up!
Last but not least, take the proactive approach and, while also considering the above four suggestions, get a fun, thumbsucking glove to help remind children not to place their thumb in their mouth. For example, the Glovey Huggey is a glove with a thumb guard and cutouts for the rest of the fingers. It is available with fun prints and patterns and kids will actually want to wear it.
Any tips we missed? Leave them in the comments!