Thumb-sucking is a very common childhood activity that make babies feel happy and secure. It is a natural reflex for kids – sucking fingers, thumbs, pacifiers and other objects. Young kids may also do this to relax themselves and help them fall asleep.

Is thumb-sucking normal at his age?

When should I be concerned about this thumb-sucking habit?

Most experts agree that a child younger than 5 and still thumb-sucking should not be pressured to stop. But the problem is, thumb-sucking can lead to dental problems. With the permanent teeth coming in, a child thumb-sucking beyond the age of 5 may develop an abnormal bite, but beyond this problem, some kids develop speech problems such as trouble with the ‘S’ sound and other tongue-tip sounds.

Prolonged thumb-sucking habit can cause minor problems such as calluses, chapped skin on the fingers and even fingernail infections. Fingernails may become shriveled up and the nails may not grow properly.

During the winter, the skin on finger may become cracked and dry, which could make him even want to suck more.

So, what can I do to stop this habit?

If your child is sucking his thumb, don’t fret. There are ways you can do to help him stop that habit.

Talk to your child about the possible problems that may happen due to thumb-sucking in such a way that he understands the issue without making him worry or feel distress.

Use plenty of positive reinforcement to encourage him to keep from thumb-sucking during waking hours.

If your child sucks thumb during the day, create activities that will make his hands busy such as finger painting, coloring or playing with play dough. Identify situations that promote thumb-sucking such as watching TV or riding in the car. Use your imagination and your creativity to help your child.

During bedtime, try bandaging the thumb or put on gloves for several weeks. This may be all that is needed for him to stop the habit.

If the thumb-sucking still continues, please consult your pediatric dentist for other options. He/She can provide recommendations on other way to discourage your child from this thumb-sucking habit.

When your child successfully break the habit, make sure you praise and reward him. Take note that breaking any habit is difficult to do and such achievement is one that he should be proud of.