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My Baby is Stuck on Thumb Sucking: How to Break the Habit

My Baby is Stuck on Thumb Sucking: How to Break the Habit

Thumb sucking and pacifier use is perfectly normal for any infant. But how much is too much? Thumb sucking and pacifier use might become detrimental to your child’s growth and development. Below, we’ve listed the dangers of too much thumb sucking, as well as tips on how to help your child break the habit.

Reasons for thumb sucking and pacifier use

It is perfectly natural for your child to want to suck their thumbs or use a pacifier. Babies are born with a strong reflex and instinct to suck. Some babies even start thumb sucking while in the womb. This is necessary because this trains them to feed and take in nutrients.

In addition, sucking also has the added effect of calming and soothing your child. From 2-4 years old, it should be okay to let your child suck their thumbs or give them a pacifier.

Negative effects of thumb sucking and pacifier use

Children should outgrow the habit of thumb sucking and using a pacifier as they grow up. However, if they continue the habit past 4 years old, some complications might arise.

The biggest issue is to their dental development. Thumb sucking and pacifier use should be fine before their permanent teeth set in. Afterward, continuous sucking might cause their teeth to be misaligned. Factors such as intensity and duration can affect how serious the issue can be.

In addition to imperfect teeth, using pacifiers too much might cause your child to be too dependent on them. This can be a problem in the long run when you want to eventually wean your child. Crying spells at night or strong resistance to weaning might occur.

How to break your child’s thumb sucking habit

Most children will eventually outgrow their need to use a pacifier or suck their thumbs. However, if you think your child is too old and the habit might be causing them more harm than good, it may be time to intervene.

Here are some tips on how to help your child break the habit:

Find the cause or trigger

For children, sucking is often a soothing mechanism. Try to identify what is causing them to feel stressed or anxious. Find ways to comfort them about their issues other than offering the pacifier. Kind reassuring words or a warm embrace might be helpful. In addition, you can provide them with a stuffed animal to squeeze or a security blanket to hug as a replacement to their pacifiers.

Give gentle pushes

If you find your children sucking their thumb or looking for their pacifiers, try to gently tell them to stop. You should be careful not to criticize, chastise, or ridicule them in any way. Doing so might do more harm than good. A kind suggestion to stop should be enough.

Positive reinforcement is key

If you see your child following through with the no thumb sucking rule, reinforce this behavior by providing them with small rewards. A treat like extra playtime or their favorite healthy snack should do the trick. You can also try to give them small goals that they can easily achieve. It can be as simple as no sucking their thumbs for one hour. Reward them when they are able to follow through and reach their goals. As they accomplish your goals, you can begin to start scaling them up. From avoiding the habit for an hour, you can level it up to no thumb sucking for the night. On the other hand, you shouldn’t scold or punish them for failing.

Pediatric Dentistry: When Should a Child Need a Dentist

Key Takeaway

Thumb sucking and pacifier use are necessary behavior for children growing up. However, as they grow older, continuing the habit may cause them more harm than good. Always pay attention to your child and their habits.

Learn more about Other Child Health Issues here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Thumb sucking, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=thumb-sucking-90-P01875 Accessed on April 19, 2021

Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/crying-colic/Pages/Pacifiers-and-Thumb-Sucking.aspx Accessed on April 19, 2021

Pacifiers: Are They Good for Your Baby?, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/pacifiers/art-20048140 Accessed on April 19, 2021

Thumb Sucking: Help Your Child Break the Habit, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/thumb-sucking/art-20047038 Accessed on April 19, 2021

Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/thumbsucking Accessed on April 19, 2021


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Written by Sky Abundo Updated Jun 16
Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS