Handling Sucking Habits Of Your Toddler Now

Sep 20, 2012 No Comments by

Many children abandon sucking on a dummy, thumb, or bottle somewhere around their third birthdays. If yours doesn’t you will need to decide whether you think it would be best to try to end the habit now or wait another year or two to take action. In making this decision, consider the following

  • Does your toddler suck on his dummy, thumb or bottle, for a good part of the day? All-day sucking is much more┬ádeleterious to the mouth and teeth than is occasional sucking.
  • Is the habit negatively affecting your toddler’s oral-development? This is call that only a dentist can make. Though mild oral changes will correct themselves when the sucking stop-as long as it stops before the permanent teeth come in-more severe changes may be permanent.
  • Is the habit interfering with your toddler’s communication skills, his pronunciation (The changes in the mouth brought on by sucking can lead to lisping), with social interactions, with learning other ways of coping with stress, or with play? (It’s not easy to build a brick tower or catch a ball with your thumb in your mouth.)If the answer to any of these question is ‘yes’, then it would probably be wise to try to end your toddler’s habit now, or at least to work on cutting it back. Here’s how:
stop sucking habit

stop sucking habit

Enlist a professional

Parents can nag day and night and fail to move a toddler to break any habit; but a doctor or dentist may only need to say, ‘It’s time to stop using the dummy (or bottle, or thumb) because it is going to make your teeth and mouth crooked,’ in order to inspire a toddler to quit. Often the Doctor or dentist will ask the child to call and report in, for example when he or she has abstained for two or three days. It may also be a good idea for the children to call Grandma or another special person with a progress report. The more people involved, the greater the motivation.

Enlist your toddler.

Children can’t be forced to abandon a habit; they have to want to. Motivation can be inspired by the words of a professional, a parent, or another adult, by the teasing of friends, by a sense of embarrassment over the habit, or even by a desire to be more grown-up, but there must be motivation. Ask your child about quitting; discuss with him or her when would be a good time and whether a cold-turkey or a go-slow approach is more appealing.

Emphasize the grown-up.

Don’t put down your toddler’s sucking habits as ‘babyish’, but do take every opportunity to call attention to ‘big boy (or girl)’┬ábehaviour, such as using the toilet, buttoning the shirt, climbing up the climbing frame without help. The more appreciations gendered for being grown-up, the more incentive to be grown-up – and to kick the habits left over babyhood.

Hold the pressure.

Young children are more likely to respond to nagging by rebelling than by knuckling under. Threats, too, (‘If you don’t stop sucking your thumb, you won’t be able to go to preschool’) will make your child less likely to cooperate.

Supply substitutes.

Keeping your toddler’s mouth occupied-with conversation, song, a musical instrument that’s played with the mouth, juice or musical from a straw (use one of those wild, roller-coaster-shaped ones for extra intrigue, if you figure out how to get it clean), for example – may satisfy some of that need for oral gratification and will help distract him or her from cravings for the bottle, dummy, or thumb. At the times of day when your toddler tends to be like to suck most, provide nourishing snacks that require a lot of chewing-but be careful that you don’t overfeed or replace one oral habit with another.

thumb or finger sucking habit

thumb or finger sucking habit

Offer a reward.

A three-year old may be willing to try to give up a sucking habit in exchange for special treat. But even with the promise of a reward, a toddler needs plenty of help in quitting.

Begin to limit dummy use.

Work out a withdrawal plan for your toddler. For example, first limit dummy use to the house. Then, put the living room off limits; then, one by one, all rooms but the bedrooms. Next, limit use to your toddler’s bedroom only, and finally, to when he or she is in bed or sitting on a particular chair. Or set time limitations, limiting dummy (or bottle) use to only after meals or only before nap and bedtime, then only after breakfast or only before bed. Or limit use to thirty minutes (set a timer) at a stretch, then twenty, then to ten, then five minutes, then two. Limitations will be most effective if they require your toddler to sit while sucking, toddlers find sitting still harder than practically anything – including giving up comfort habits. (‘Let’s see if you can stop using your bottle and dummy in the kitchen’), rather than as obligation restrictions. Whenever your child succeeds in meeting a challenge, be lavish in your praise.

Talk some of fun out of the bottle.

Fill the bottle with water rather than milk or juice. Explain that sucking on a bottle filled with milk or juice could make cavities (or ‘holes’) in his or her teeth. When offering beverages, give your toddler a choice between a cup of juice or milk and a bottle of water. This may significantly reduce the allure of the bottle.

Take the air out of the dummy.

Poke holes in or clip the end off the dummy treat; if sucking the dummy brings no pleasure at all, your toddler may just toss it.

Lose it.

The bottle of the dummy, that is. If you’re lucky, your toddler’s favourite sucking object will disappear on an outing. At that point you can explain that you’re not going to buy a new one because the doctor said ‘you’re too old for a bottle (or a dummy).’

Replace the comfort of sucking with other comforts.

Children being deprived of a comfort habit need a lot of extra comfort from other sources during the withdrawal period and for a while thereafter. Hold your toddler’s hand while he is upset, lavish attention and affection on him or her, spend extra time playing and going on outing together.

The sucking habit that is the most difficult to break his thumb or finger sucking. While you can limit where your toddler can take a bottle or a dummy, you can’t limit where your toddler takes his or her fingers. If your toddler is unable to stop finger-sucking, even with the help of above measures, don’t demand and don’t despair. If necessary, more drastic measures may be recommended when your toddler is older-anywhere between three and five, depending on the condition of his or her mouth and your dentist’s point of view. Possibilities then will include applying a foul-tasting preparation to the sucking finger (to make the habit unpalatable), and temporarily installing a metal reminder bar across the palate (to make sucking uncomfortable and remind the child not to do it). You can also recommend that when the urge to suck comes on, your toddler make a fist with the thumb inside. Instead of constantly saying, ‘Take your thumb out of your mouth,’ develop a silly secret code (such as, ‘Eeny, meeny, miney, mo’ or ‘Fee, fie, fo, fum’) that you can use as a reminder not to suck.

If a child uses a thumb or a dummy obsessively, and seems withdrawn or depressed, the sucking may represent more than a bad habit. Consult with your child’s doctor in such a situation to try to cover and resolve any underlying problems.


After The Baby Is Born, The Toddlers Year
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