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Pregnancy & Parenting > Parenting Preschoolers

Tips to Stop Thumb (or Finger) Sucking

Thumb sucking and finger sucking are natural reflexes that babies develop while they are still in the womb. When it first develops it is a comfort reflex that will gradually be phased out by the baby as they grow into a toddler. However, in some children thumb and finger sucking can develop from a comfort reflex into a habit that is difficult to break.

1. Do you need to intervene?

The first tip for stopping thumb and finger sucking is to determine if you need to intervene at all. Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that babies develop to comfort themselves. For babies and young toddlers it will normally phase itself out. If your child is not sucking their thumb too aggressively or only sporadically then you should just ignore it. However, if your child relies heavily on thumb sucking and it is starting to affect their dental health and thumb health then you need to take steps to stop the sucking problem.

2. Don't pull

The second tip for dealing with thumb sucking is never pull your childís thumb or finger out of their mouth. This can cause damage to their teeth or finger, especially if they have a strong suction or if they have teeth. Instead, you want to ask them to stop sucking their thumb.

3. Use redirection

If your child is older and they are still sucking their thumb then it may simply be a habit that they have developed over the first years of their life. To break this habit you may want to use redirection when they show signs that they are about to suck their thumb. Use a special toy or activity to draw their attention away from sucking their thumb.

4. Work together to solve the problem

A good strategy to stop thumb sucking is to talk with your toddler and come up with deal. For example make a deal that if they can stop sucking their thumb then they will be able to go to an amusement park or get a special gift.

5. Keep their thumbs busy

If they are using their thumbs for a fun activity they wonít be able to suck them, nor will they have the desire to suck them. Some activities that you can introduce include: coloring, video games, board games, drawing, painting, clay modeling, and computer games.

6. Don't stress them

Donít try to get your toddler or prescholler to stop sucking their thumb during emotional stressing times of their life. If your family is dealing with a death, if you have just gone back to work, or if you are going through a divorce donít push the issue of no more thumb sucking. Instead wait for a time where things are more or less stable. This will help reduce the stress that your toddler experiences because they are giving up an enjoyable habit and it will increase their chances of success.

Related Links:

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Dealing with Picky Eaters

Tips for Biting Problem in Toddlers

Dealing with Tantrums

Choosing Toys for Toddlers

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