Why do children suck their thumbs

Thumb sucking in children: causes and tips for weaning

Video by Aischa Butt

"Take your thumb out of your mouth!" Very often you hear mothers and fathers say this sentence when their children suck their thumbs. Sucking your thumb or other fingers in the first few months of life is anything but harmful.

Rather, it is a natural instinct that children already have in the womb (with some ultrasounds you can see the fetus suckling on its finger). Sucking and sucking on the thumb, and with babies even on the whole fist, is not only fun for children, it also serves as a means of calming down (while hunger has little or nothing to do with it).

As children get older and have retained the habit of sucking their thumbs - many children get used to it on their own - it can create problems. The development of the teeth in particular suffers from constant suckling. The forward pull and pressure on the roof of the mouth can cause the milk teeth to grow crooked and facing forward.

In this case, parents should try to wean their child off the thumb. But how do you do it gently and without pressure?

Why do children suck their thumbs?

Of course, it would be easiest if our children could tell us why exactly they suck their thumbs in one situation or another. Unfortunately, they are not able to do this.

Today it is assumed that children suckle their fingers especially when they need consolation or when they are looking for a 'way out' of an unfamiliar or new situation. Sucking their thumbs helps them deal with stress, such as when they feel it when they are alone at night or when they are really without mom for the first time in kindergarten.

Thumb sucking helps children relieve tension and is their antidote to fear and loneliness.

Sucking the thumb, which, as I said, begins in the womb, usually takes place in the first three months of life, rarely later. In fact, around 80% of newborns do. Thumb sucking does not depend on hunger.

Also exciting: 8 sentences children use to indirectly ask for help

When should children stop sucking their thumbs?

Older children up to the age of three or four years old occasionally put their fingers in their mouths, this is not a problem. It is a harmless behavior that often goes away on its own as soon as the child develops other mechanisms to calm himself down or when he begins to be "socially" engaged with his peers.

However, there may be times when the habit lasts longer. At this point it is necessary to intervene. Why older children still suck their thumbs cannot be clearly explained. It may be due to previous weaning or problems related to stressful family situations and emotional deficits.

If children suckle their thumbs for a long time, there is a risk that the habit will cause long-term problems with their teeth by changing the shape of the palate and thus causing the child's teeth to be misaligned.

In addition, the nail of the finger on which the child is sucking can become infected (due to microbes that settle in an area of ​​damp and therefore defenseless skin). In addition, children who suck their thumbs swallow more air, which can lead to uncomfortable abdominal pain and gas.

What can I do to stop my child from sucking their thumb?

From the age of four or five, you should wean your child from sucking on the thumb. It is important that you approach the matter gently and calmly. For years the thumb has been a good companion for your child. He gave him security in difficult situations. It will be difficult for your sweetheart to let go of it.

So always be patient but persevere. There will be small setbacks every now and then. Don't be too strict with your child and give them the time they need.

Confidence instead of prohibition

You should therefore refrain from 'violence' and a strict ban on sucking your thumb. It would be utopian to believe that your child will keep their fingers off their thumbs overnight. Please do not use bitter-tasting creams or vinegar on your fingers.

Work better on your child's self-esteem. Your child has to look more outward from the inside, i.e. of himself. Promotes your child's autonomy. Play finger games, jump on the trampoline or practice cycling. Everything your child learns to be able to do helps them become more secure.

You can also offer your child a particularly popular activity as a reward for not sucking their thumbs. A visit to the zoo, going swimming or an extra portion of cuddling with mom and dad can work wonders and make the child almost forget his thumb.

The essence of weaning is to break your child's thumb sucking routine. So don't avoid the typical situations in which your child sucks on the thumb. Rather, accompany them through and show them that they don't need their thumbs at all.

In the video: 3 strategies to boost your child's self-confidence

Video by Inga Back

Pacifier or finger in mouth: which is better?

There are always supporters and opponents on both sides. However, a pacifier does not only have advantages when it comes to weaning.

Teats, or pacifiers, come in different sizes and shapes. Which makes kids suck on something that's made for their age. As a rule, the material and shape of the pacifier are adapted to the child's jaw. The pressure on the palate and later also on the teeth is therefore less. Tooth misalignment is less likely.

A finger in the mouth always exerts the same pressure on the roof of the mouth and teeth. Misaligned teeth can be favored in this way.

The weaning of the pacifier is also 'easier' because, unlike the finger, it can disappear. You can also wean the teat 'gradually'. If you agree with the child that the pacifier stays outside during the day, for example, this is easy to control, even if you are not constantly with the child.

Also a big advantage if you want to say goodbye to the pacifier for good: You can attach it to a pacifier tree together with the child and say 'goodbye' forever. If the child asks about his teat a little later, you can describe the exact place he is. This helps many children a lot in letting go.

Read also:Weaning off pacifiers: 5 tips for a gentle farewell

Important NOTE: The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for a doctor's diagnosis. If you have any uncertainties, urgent questions or complaints, you should contact your doctor.