The Thumb Sucking Habit: How Long Is Too Long?

The Thumb Sucking Habit: How Long Is Too Long? | Baby Chick

The Thumb Sucking Habit: How Long Is Too Long?

Thumb sucking is a common habit in childhood. Parents usually notice it within the first three months of the child’s life, although there is some evidence that babies can start sucking their thumbs inside the womb.

Thumb sucking is one of the things that parents worry about as babies grow and become toddlers. They wonder when the habit would wear off, or if they need help to stop it. Here is some important information you should know about his habit.

Why Do Babies Suck Their Thumbs?

Infants are born with a need to suck. It is a natural reflex that gives babies the comfort associated with nursing. Infants and toddlers use it as a coping mechanism when they are anxious or separated from their parents. The habit helps to induce sleep and children may suck their thumbs before bedtime. The sucking reflex enables the brain to release opiate-like substances called beta-endorphins that can produce either a euphoric or calming effect. An actual change in body chemistry takes place when a child sucks his thumb, experts say.

Toddlers tend to suck when they are trying to fall asleep, or when they are bored, or when they’re idling between activities, or to self-soothe when they are upset. Thumb sucking may be secondary to changes in the child’s emotional environment as well.

When Is It Time To Quit?

Usually, kids kick the habit as they get busy learning new skills and no longer need the comfort of sucking.

Thumb sucking does not have any lasting effects until after the baby teeth have fallen out, and the permanent teeth are coming in. Beyond 5-6 years of age, the risks associated with thumb sucking outweigh the benefits.

READ MORE
Understanding Baby's Milestones

According to the American Dental Association, the best time to discourage thumb sucking is before the child turns five. The obvious concerns are changes that have the potential to alter the bite, the oral development, and the growth trajectory of the face.

Should I Be Worried?

Thumb sucking may get worrisome if it starts interfering with the child’s functioning on a physical, emotional, or social level. If the habit continues beyond the age of five or six, it may lead to the following changes:

  • The pressure created by the sucking motion can affect the growth of the palate.
  • Prolonged thumb sucking can affect the alignment of the teeth. The upper front teeth slant outwards, and the lower front teeth tilt behind, not allowing the teeth to overlap as the jaws come together. The open space between the upper and lower teeth is called “open bite.” 
  • The child may develop a lisp, or have difficulty pronouncing his Ts and Ds.
  • Thumb suckers are prone to skin infections such as impetigo — a highly contagious, bacterial infection that causes sores and blisters, and paronychia of the thumb — a bacterial or fungal infection that occurs around the nails.
  • The intensity of sucking matters too. Children who passively rest their thumbs in their mouth are less likely to have problems than their forceful sucking peers. Vigorous sucking is identified by popping sounds heard when the child sucks. It is harder to break and usually needs intervention.

How Do I Break The Habit?

  • For most children, the activity helps escape hunger and boredom. If you can feed them at the right time, and keep them gainfully engaged, chances are you can get rid of the habit soon.
  • Children resort to digit-sucking to relieve stress. Pick a time when neither of you is experiencing stress or change.
  • Pay attention to the cues when your child sucks his thumb, and help him find an alternative. Give him some modeling clay, or a squeeze ball, or something to draw. It’s more likely to be successful than the negative approaches like bandages and bitter tasting stuff.
  • Reinforce your child’s efforts at quitting the habit with encouragement and praise. Let him know that you are pleased with the progress.
  • A child’s view of time is — the present. He is dominated by how things look, or taste, or feel, or sound now. There’s no point telling him that his teeth will look better in future if he stops sucking his thumb today.
  • Avoid power struggles or criticism. It would only make him uneasy, and more likely to suck his thumb.
  • If you notice that your child is having a hard time giving up the habit, talk to your health professional. Do not hesitate to bring it up to your doctor, even if not asked directly.
READ MORE
How to Say Goodbye at Drop Off and Avoid the Tears

Social situations and peer pressure usually help children to figure out when thumb sucking is no longer acceptable. As each child is different, make sure that you pay attention to your child’s cues when he is ready to walk away from the habit. Just remember, no matter how dire the situation may seem, every child outgrows the habit eventually, and yours will too!

About the Author /

Ratna is a Pediatric Dentist, educator and health content creator. Her background as a healthcare provider gives her an in-depth knowledge of dental/medical terminologies and clinical concepts. She volunteers for community outreach programs that improve public health awareness. She strongly believes in the power of communication for enabling better health outcomes.

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And this is truer now than ever before. 📷 from And this is truer now than ever before.
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Get my hair done, a mani/pedi, or meet with friend Get my hair done, a mani/pedi, or meet with friends at a restaurant and have a large margarita WITHOUT our kids. 🍹😂 What are you gonna do when you get out?⁠
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Like many of you reading this, I have seen social media posts from (what I like to call) the moms-of-Pinterest to the moms-barely-keeping-it-together. 🙋‍♀️ I have seen families plan structured activities throughout each day and families play outside all day (in their own space, of course). Both are okay! There is really no right or wrong way to do this. But because of my background as a teacher and mom, I want to offer some encouragement and tips. {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
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📷: @chantellelournes⁠
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Velcro kids are the beeeeesssstttt . . . 🙈🙈🙈⁠ We're already stuck in this house together. It's called social distancing, kid. Give mama a little space. 😑😂⁠
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If they complain that everyone else is going out, If they complain that everyone else is going out, you tell them, “You’re not everyone.” How the tables have turned. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️⁠😂
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🧼 How to Clean Your Kids Toys in the Days of CO 🧼 How to Clean Your Kids Toys in the Days of COVID-19⁠ 🧸
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It’s hard to be a parent at times like these. It means lots and lots of cleaning, and being vigilant about killing germs on a daily basis. 🦠😷 During this season when many of us have our kids at home, too, it’s important to learn the best known strategies for how to clean your kids toys effectively. We have a mama, teacher, childcare provider, and school administrator on baby-chick.com today and she has seen and tried all different kinds of ways to keep toys and the objects children use most often clean and free of germs. It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it!⁠ 👍
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Even though COVID-19 is a novel virus, experts say that we can still use products that the Environmental Protection Agency lists as effective on killing similar viruses, like the rhinovirus or common cold. And when we halt the spread of germs in our own home, we are doing our part to keep our communities healthy, too.⁠ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
📷: @inmomsitrust⁠
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Thankful that takeout is still available. 🙏 Thi Thankful that takeout is still available. 🙏 This is what self-care now looks like. 😂⁠
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No one’s at your party because it’s called soc No one’s at your party because it’s called social distancing, bro. That and no one cares. 🤷‍♀️ #quarantineday6 😂⁠
📷: @scarymommy⁠
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Cool 😒⁠ .⁠ #coronavirus #covid19 #nsync #qu Cool 😒⁠
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❤️❤️❤️❤️⁠ Quote via @thismessygr ❤️❤️❤️❤️⁠
Quote via @thismessygrace 🙏
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Quarantine Day 5 . . . May your coffee be strong a Quarantine Day 5 . . . May your coffee be strong and your baby's nap be long. 🙏☕😴⁠
📷: @julieejacks⁠
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😫😫😫⁠ .⁠ #coronavirus #covid19 #quaran 😫😫😫⁠
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#coronavirus #covid19 #quarantine #quarantinelife #motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick
🏥 When is it Too Late to Change Your Doctor Dur 🏥 When is it Too Late to Change Your Doctor During Pregnancy? 👩‍⚕️⁠
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A major decision that you must make in your pregnancy is who is going to be your care provider to help you give birth to your baby. Are you going to go with your current OBGYN, are you going to look for a different OB, are you going to choose a midwife? Depending on where and how you want to give birth to your baby, this question and your options should become more clear. But if you're seeing some red flags pop up 🚩 with your current provider during your pregnancy, you might be wondering if it's too late to change your doctor.⁠ 😬 We're talking about it today on baby-chick.com! {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
📷: @mamamatcha_⁠
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#pregnancy #pregnant #pregnancytip #momtobe #pregnancylife #pregnancyguide #mamatobe #firstpregnancy #babybump #pregnancyjourney #bumpie #preggo #pregnancybasics #pregnancyhelp #maternity #motherhood #momlife #expecting #mumlife #mommytobe #pregnantlife #babyontheway #inspirepregnancy #mommychick #babychick
🎶 Sunny day ☀️ Sweeping the clouds away ☁ 🎶 Sunny day ☀️ Sweeping the clouds away ☁️⁠
🎶 On my way to where the air is at best, questionably clean 😷⁠
🎶 Can you tell me how to get, how to get a COVID-19 screen?⁠
🎶 Don’t come over to play, everyone’s social distancing today 🚫⁠
🎶 Sketchy neighbors can stay at least 6 feet away? 🚷⁠
🎶 Can you tell me how to get, how to get a COVID-19 screen?⁠
📷: @howtobeadad⁠
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#coronavirus #covid19 #sesamestreet #quarantine #quarantinelife #motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick
It'll be interesting to see how all of this change It'll be interesting to see how all of this changes us in the future. But for now, we are uniting #togetherapart. We are healing and our hope is we will then be stronger than ever. ❤️⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #covid19 #coronavirus #momlife #motherhood #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #healing #momsofinstagram #mommychick #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
🧘‍♀️ How to Reset Your Motherhood Mindset 🧘‍♀️ How to Reset Your Motherhood Mindset⁠ 😊⁠
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Motherhood can be the most rewarding and amazing experience in the world. 😍 But, it can also be one of the hardest. 😖 It’s easy for the stress of mom life to become overwhelming. If you’re working, you somehow have to juggle a work schedule and job demands, in addition to fulfilling expectations at home. 🤹‍♀️ If you’re a stay-at-home mom, it can be all too easy to surround yourself with the pressures and stress of motherhood, and forget to ever come up for a breath. 😰 For me, when that stress starts to bubble over, it really affects my relationship with my husband and my kids. When I start to feel like this, I know it's time to reset my motherhood mindset.⁠ 🧘‍♀️ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
Article by: Lisa Prosser⁠
📷: @liaeverette⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #resetmindset #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick #motherhoodmindset
When you have to suction their nose during cold an When you have to suction their nose during cold and flu season. 😂😷⁠
📷: @perfectionpending⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick #coldandflu #parentlife #toddlerlife
🧼 Cleaning Tips and Tricks for Busy Moms 🧹⁠
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As a busy mom, I have a whole lot going on at any given moment. 🤹‍♀️ Sometimes, I'm not able to keep my house as clean as I like. 😬 But I have found that I’m much happier when my house is clean and organized, so I try to dedicate some time to getting the job done. I’ve found that following these ten cleaning tips and tricks makes things much easier for a busy mom to maintain (and keeps a whole lot happier!).⁠ 🙌 {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading and see our tips!}⁠
Article by: @flake.lauren⁠
📷: unknown⁠
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#adultlife #adulthood #motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #cleaningtips #motherhoodunplugged #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick #cleanup #cleaning #cleaningmode #timetoclean #passionforcleaning #cleanyourhouse #healthyhome #springcleaning #housecleaning #howtoclean
I mean, can you blame us?! 😍😂⁠ 📷: @momf I mean, can you blame us?! 😍😂⁠
📷: @momfriendblog⁠
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#pinchmeimcute #stpatricksday #stpattysday #motherhood #momlife #motherhoodrising #mumlife #motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #mommylife #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick #babiesofig #lucky
Absolutely true. 💚🍀 Happy St. Patrick's Day! Absolutely true. 💚🍀 Happy St. Patrick's Day!⁠
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#motherhoodquote #motherhood #quotes #momlife #quoteoftheday #mumspiration #motherhoodrising #mumlife #inspiringquotes #stpatricksday #momfriends #motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #mommylife #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick #fourleafclover #lucky
☀️ Warm Weather Wardrobe Refresh 😎⁠ .⁠ ☀️ Warm Weather Wardrobe Refresh 😎⁠
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The temperatures are rising and Spring is almost here! If you're not sure how to transition things in your closet with the new season and you're looking for some pieces to welcome the warmer weather, we've got you covered. Consider this your warm-weather wardrobe refresh. 🙌 {Click 🔗 in bio for our tips and for new Spring pieces!}⁠
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#springishere #warmweatherwardrobe #springtime #springstyle #ootd #fashion #style #spring #springfashion #instafashion #instastyle #styleinspo #mommychick #babychick
Such a sweet pregnancy announcement. 😍 To all t Such a sweet pregnancy announcement. 😍 To all the lucky babies out there . . . you're magically a dream come true. 🌈💕⁠
📷: @isisallmiightyy⁠
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#pregnancy #pregnant #pregnancyannouncement #momtobe #pregnancylife #mamatobe #firstpregnancy #babybump #pregnancyjourney #firsttrimester #preggo #luckybaby #luckymama #maternity #motherhood #momlife #expecting #mumlife #mommytobe #pregnantlife #babyontheway #inspirepregnancy #mommychick #babychick
😧 Common Concerns of New Parents (And How to Ha 😧 Common Concerns of New Parents (And How to Handle Them)⁠ 👍⁠
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You waited months and months for this big moment. 🤰 The day you get to meet your bundle of joy and bring him or her home. 👶 Once you're home, you're quickly overtaken by common concerns many new parents have! Wondering how often you should be feeding your new baby? Did they tell you when your baby can have his or her first bath? 🤔⁠
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Don't worry. You're NOT alone! In fact, it's natural to be feeling a little unsure about this whole parenting thing right about now (I know I did!). 😬 So to help you out, we're going to break down some of the common concerns of new parents AND how to handle them!⁠ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
Article by: @fitmommystrong⁠
📷: unknown (DM us for credit!)⁠
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#thisispostpartum #postpartum #postpartumlife #newparent #postpartumcare #postpartumcareplan #newborn #dailyparenting #honestlymothering #motherhoodunplugged #youarenotalone #motherhood #mothering #momlife #newmom #4thtrimester #fourthtrimester #postnatal #babychick #mommychick #motherhoodthroughinstagram #mumlife #mommylife #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣