Why long-term thumb sucking is bad for your baby

Thumb sucking is a common habit among the small children especially the infants. While this habit fades off for most of the children by the end of infancy, some kids continue to suck their thumb throughout their toddlerhood and early school age.

Thumb sucking

Thumb sucking has a soothing effect on infants, but you need to slowly divert your kid/kids from this habit as soon as he/she/ they enter the toddler stage.

Why do the babies suck their thumbs?

Babies suck their thumbs because it gives them a sense of security. Thumb sucking has a soothing effect on the stress that babies go through. Yes, you heard it right. Babies do have stress. Infants may get stressed up when they find no one by their side or when there is a delay in meeting their needs (like not feeding them immediately when they cry in hunger, not lifting them up immediately when they cry to seek your attention etc. )

Every child goes through a phase where he/she sucks his/her thumb. It’s a psychological stage where the child develops a sense of safety and security.

Some kids suck their thumb to drive away the boredom or to cope up with their loneliness

Why long-term thumb sucking/pacifier is bad?

Though thumb sucking has some good effect on infants, it has some bad effects too. Let’s see some of them.

  1. Gastritis – when your child sucks his/her thumb or pacifier he/she also gobbles up a small volume of air with it. When too much of air/gas gets inside the baby’s stomach, it damages the stomach cells leading to gastritis (gas trouble) and stomach pain. You can know that your baby has a problem when he/she a)  farts or burps often, b) cry for no obvious reasons, c) and if the kid complains of frequent stomach pain ( if the kid is vocal)
  2. Deformation of the thumb
  1. Deformation or irregular arrangement of teeth.

 Deformation or irregular arrangement of teeth

Ways to stop the habit

You don’t have to apply anything bitter tasting on the thumb or beat/scold the child to stop him/her from sucking his/her thumb. You can wean off this habit by

  • Spend time with the child

Spend time with the child

spending time ( as much as possible ) with your kid will give him a sense of comfort and confidence that the caretaker would be with her/him when she/he needs them. Hence you can drive away the habit formed as a result of boredom/loneliness

  • Divert the kid’s attention

Kids playing

You can divert the child’s attention to some activities or toys whenever he/she put his/her thumb in the mouth. For example; you can encourage the baby to shake a rattle or throw a ball etc. Just keep the hand (which he she puts into mouth) engaged whenever you find them sucking the thumb. You can also engage them in activities like hand/finger/sponge/earbud/other objects painting, making them crafts out of old newspapers/colour papers (like pinwheel, aeroplane, boat etc.), build objects using building blocks/play dough ( if you are worried about the kids eating the playdough, you can make your own at home. You can check the recipe here.) etc. 

  • Read stories/ sing to them

Reading to kids

If the kid sucks their thumb only during nap/bedtime, you can put them to sleep by telling them stories/singing them songs etc.

Thumb sucking will fade away slowly only no matter what you do. So the most important point to keep in mind is to be patient with your baby and give him/her some time. Beating the kid will only worsen the situation.

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