Thumb Sucking Toddler

Dec 02, 2012 No Comments by

In a toddler’s early forays out of the cozy shelter of infancy and into the cold, cruel and unfamiliar world that now beckons, it sometimes helps to bring a friend along for support. And whether that friend is an earless stuffed animal, a threadbare blanket, or a trusty thumb, it provides the security a toddler needs to explore the unknown. It also allows her to distance herself from her parents, while still hanging on to a familiar comfort.



Not surprisingly, the toddler craves the thumb most when her inner struggle between independence and dependence is at its most tumultuous, or as with all sources of comfort, when she’s tired, cranky, under the weather, or bored. Though many children abandon sucking their thumbs (or fists or fingers) before the end of the first year, many other continue to enjoy the comforting habit well beyond this time.

At this age thumb and finger sucking are normal, and in moderation, not harmful, so there’s no need to ‘do something’ about them. In fact, parental; pressure tends to increase and intensify the habit. If you’re worried about what other people will think, don’t be. First of all, the stigma of thumb-sucking isn’t as great as it used to be. Well-informed parents today are more likely to consider it a normal comfort habit, and not a sign of emotional instability. Second of all, it matters not what others think – your attitude is the one that counts. Just politely disregard any cluck clucks and tsk-tsks that come from the unenlightened.

Don’t worry, either, about thumb-sucking interfering with normal development of the mouth and teeth. Most experts say that this shouldn’t be a problem, as long as the child isn’t sucking day in and day out and the habit is abandoned by age four, which in most cases it is. The redness and irritation that is a side effect of thumb-sucking in some children isn’t a cause for concern, either.

As with, most other comfort habits, thumb-sucking usually begin to subside without parental interference by age three. If thumb sucking is so pervasive that it interferes with your child learning to talk, with her eating and with her using her hands for playing and learning.

‘Our toddler must be the world’s champion thumb sucker. He hardly ever has his thumb out of his mouth. Should we worry?’

Worry isn’t called for, but a little action probably is. Since constant thumb-sucking, unlike occasional thumb-sucking, can do some permanent damage to the mouth and teeth, you and your toddler will have to work to see that his habit doesn’t wreak oral havoc.

You may be able to help your child cut down on the time he spends sucking his thumb by engaging him in activities that require the use of both hands (such as finger painting, rising a rocking horse or other riding toy, swinging on a swing, playing catch, kneading bread dough); by dressing him in mittens to go outdoors on cold weather; by dolling out extra love and attention and by being sure that he gets adequate rest and sleep.
If these don’t succeed, don’t nag or turn up the pressure, but do discuss the situation with your child’s pediatrician and, if he has one, his pediatrics dentist. You can visit North Raleigh Pediatrics if you don’t have a pediatrician yet.

After The Baby Is Born, The Toddlers Year
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