Baby Thumb or Finger Sucking

Why Do Some Babies Do It?

Your baby might suck his thumb when he is hungry, tired, lonely, or whenever he needs comfort. Babies do it to soothe and calm themselves, just as a dummy calms some babies. All babies are born with a need to suck, as this is how they get milk, but some babies need to suck more than others. Thumb or finger sucking calms babies because it releases calming endorphins. It doesn't mean your baby is anxious or unhappy. All babies do things to soothe themselves, some hum to themselves, others chew their sleeve, some cling onto a favourite toy, others suck on a dummy or thumb. Some babies also suck their fingers when they are teething to relieve pressure on their gums.

Is Thumb or Finger Sucking Bad for my Baby?

Thumb or finger sucking can cause an open bite, and affect speech development. It can also cause crooked or prominent teeth as it forces the teeth forward. Prolonged thumb sucking can also damage the roof of the mouth. However, thumb sucking only damages teeth when a child's milk teeth have fallen out and their adult set are coming through, which usually happens when a child is 5 or 6. Thumb or finger sucking as a baby won't cause any lasting damage to your baby's teeth.

Do I Need To Do Anything About It?

Some parents decide to give their babies dummies to make them stop sucking their thumbs. The advantage of this is that you can take the dummy away when you want your baby to stop using it (Speech and language therapists recommend children should stop using a dummy by 12 months of age). However, there are downsides to using a dummy, such as increased risk of ear infections and having to sterilise it frequently. There's also no guarantee your baby won't revert to their thumb when you take their dummy away.

Babies usually grow out of their thumb sucking habit by they time they reach 9 months, when they no longer feel the need to suck, and also want to have both hands free for playing! Some determined thumb suckers will continue in their ways however for years to come. Until your child reaches school age, there is no point trying to stop them thumb sucking, as they will be too young to understand why you don't want them to do it. They also won't be discouraged by the threat of wonky teeth when they are older as they don't care what they look like! You can however help your child give it up by themselves by not discussing his habit in front of him (this will make him feel anxious and more likely to continue doing it). Give him toys that require two hands to make them work.

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.