Is your child sucking their thumb even after the age of two? Know its 5 causes

Most babies and toddlers suck their thumbs. It is common and normal until it becomes a habit. Here’s how to stop thumb sucking in children.
thumb sucking
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 12 Mar 2024, 19:48 pm IST
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Thumb sucking is a common behaviour among infants and young children, serving as a source of comfort and self-soothing. Parents often wonder why it happens and when it should naturally stop. Typically, children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four as they develop alternative coping mechanisms. While some parents may find thumb sucking endearing or normal, it’s important to address the habit, as prolonged thumb sucking can lead to dental issues. If the habit persists beyond early childhood, it may require intervention to prevent potential dental problems and promote proper oral development. So, are you wondering how to stop thumb sucking? You can gently encourage your child to break the habit in many ways. Read on to find out.

What are the causes of thumb sucking in babies?

Babies start thumb sucking as soon as they are born. In fact, some babies even learn it in their mother’s womb, says pediatrician Dr Madhavi Bhardwaj. It is nothing but a habit in which babies find comfort. Not just thumb, babies can even develop the habit of sucking their rubber toys. This habit makes them feel relaxed and secure, helping children cope with stress, anxiety, or boredom. While thumb sucking is common and usually harmless, if your child sucks vigorously, it can have a significant impact on tooth alignment and growth.

Also read: These 9 habits can create trouble for your baby’s milk teeth

At what age does a child stop sucking his thumb?

While there’s no particular age, some babies usually stop sucking their thumbs by the age of 6 or 7 months, and some suck their thumbs for ages two to four. In fact, some children may continue the habit into early childhood or beyond, especially if they feel stressed or anxious. According to experts, if a child is sucking his thumb even after 5 years, it has become a habit and you have to start making efforts to break the habit gradually.

What are the risks of applying chilli to stop children from sucking their thumbs?

Applying chilli to a child’s thumb to avoid thumb sucking can be harmful and potentially dangerous. Chilli contains capsaicin, which can cause irritation, burning, and even blistering on the skin. Additionally, it may lead to discomfort and emotional distress for the child. It’s safer and more effective to explore gentle, non-irritating methods to address thumb sucking habits.

weaning with arrowroot poder
Do not apply anything to the thumb to stop thumb-sucking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to stop thumb sucking in children?

1. Identify triggers

Pay attention to the situations or emotions that trigger thumb sucking in your child. Is it boredom, anxiety, or tiredness? By identifying these triggers, you can help your child find alternative coping mechanisms or distractions to replace thumb sucking.

2. Keep your child busy

Offer your child alternative activities to keep their hands busy, such as playing with toys, drawing, or engaging in any game. Providing a variety of distractions can help redirect their attention away from thumb sucking.

Also read: Parenting tips: How to check in on your child’s mental health daily

3. Praise efforts, not just results

Encourage your child to stop thumb sucking by offering praise and rewards for their efforts. Focus on celebrating every small victory along the way, whether it’s going an hour without thumb sucking. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in motivating your child to break the habit.

4. Offer chewy snacks

Keep healthy snacks on hand that require chewing, like carrot sticks or apple slices. Encourage your child to snack on these when they feel the urge to suck their thumb.

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baby teething
Your baby might start chewing anything they find, so give them something healthy! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Give gentle reminders

Remind your child gently and consistently to stop thumb sucking whenever you notice them doing it. Avoid using harsh or shaming language, as this can lead to feelings of guilt or anxiety in your child. Instead, offer gentle reminders in a supportive and encouraging manner.

What to do if a child sucks his thumb even at an older age?

“In this situation, talk it out with the child and take note of when they put their thumb in their mouth. Rather than scolding or ridiculing him in front of other people, address the issue privately and try to understand their problem or perspective. Many times, children suck their thumbs when they are under stress or anxiety or when they are bored. So, try to help manage their stress levels and keep them calm and composed. If habits such as leg shaking, nail-biting, or thumb sucking persist beyond the age of 10, you may consider taking help from a doctor,” says Dr Bhardwaj.

Keep these tips in mind to get rid of thumb sucking habit of your kid!

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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