Thumb sucking is the act of putting the thumb into the mouth for a prolonged duration. It is considered to be soothing and therapeutic. Thumb sucking is generally associated with babies and young children. Children suck on objects to soothe themselves; sucking is one of the baby’s natural reflexes and completely typical for babies and young children.
Thumb sucking can start as early as 2-3 months of growth in the womb or within months of being born. Most thumb-suckers stop gradually by the age of five years. Rarely does it continue into adulthood.
More than three-quarters of infants suck their thumbs or fingers through the first year of life. For these children, thumb sucking is an appropriate and useful behavior that allows them to soothe and entertain themselves. A child usually turns to his thumb when he is tired, upset or bored. It is not unusual for a thumb sucker to simultaneously engage in other self-comforting behaviors like pulling at a strand of hair, touching an ear, or holding onto a blanket or stuffed toy. Children who suck their thumbs are able to begin at an early age to meet their own need for sucking. These children fall asleep more easily, are able to put themselves back to sleep at night more easily, and sleep through the night much earlier than infants who do not suck their thumbs.
Thumb-sucking can cause problems for dental development. The more time a child sucks his thumb and the greater the sucking pressure, the more harm done to teeth and jaws. Day and night forceful thumb sucking makes front teeth move, and can even reshape the jaw bone. Upper front teeth flare out and tip upward while lower front teeth move inward. The reason that thumbs and fingers are effective tooth-movers and bone shapers is that the jaw bones of children under age eight are especially soft and malleable. Children have upper and lower jaws rich in blood supply and relatively low in mineral content, especially calcium. Unfortunately for children and parents, prolonged thumb or finger sucking easily deforms the bone surrounding upper and lower front teeth, producing a hole or gap when teeth are brought together known as an "open bite". The child who sucks her thumb will have dental and speech problems. The top jaw begins to form a gap in the front where the thumb is always placed causing an open bite. Other problems include a cross bite, crooked teeth, malocclusions, lisps, or a tongue thrust. In addition, prolonged thumb sucking can cause minor physical problems, such as chapped lips or cracked skin, calluses, or fingernail infections.
If your child is still sucking their thumb after age five interventions is necessary. The timing of this intervention is important.Praise children for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they do. If a child is sucking their thumb when feeling insecure or needing comfort, focus instead on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child. If a child is sucking on their thumb because of boredom, try getting a child's attention with a fun activity. Involve older children in the selection of a means to cease thumb sucking. The pediatric dentist can offer encouragement to a child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking. Only if these tips are ineffective, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock/glove on the hand at night.First of all, a parent must meet their infant and toddler's emotional needs. Give your baby and toddler a structured day. Respond to their crying to soothe them. They are tired, hungry, cold, bored or wet. Find out what it is and meet their needs.
Many parents are concerned that thumb-sucking at a late age is a sign of emotional immaturity or lack of self-confidence.Breaking a habit is much easier when the child is a willing participant. It can also be helpful to place a bitter-tasting liquid on the nail (not directly on the finger), especially at night, as a reminder not to suck. Mittens, gloves, or a finger-splint may also be worn at night. Talk to your pediatrician and your child's dentist, who may recommend, especially in the case of an overbite, the insertion of a device in the child's mouth known as a palatal bar that prevents sucking. With all treatments, a child should be offered strong emotional support. With all treatments, a child should be offered strong emotional support. Instead, you want to create an environment where she chooses to stop on her own. You can weaken the thumb-sucking habit by distracting her when you notice her thumb in her mouth. Engage her in a way that she uses both hands.
Painting something that tastes yucky on the thumbs can make sucking them less satisfying. Comments from other people, though, can be helpful.
Tips to stop thumb sucking:
Make the child conscious of the habit.
The first step is to validate your child’s feelings when you begin to talk to them about their thumb sucking habit.
"Chart the progress." Place a sticker or gold star on the calendar each night a child goes without sucking his thumb. Plan a reward if the child goes five nights without sucking his thumb,
" Cover their hands. "All the tricks used to stop thumb-sucking--covering their thumbs with socks, nail polish, bandages or rubber bands--will work, but only after the child is made conscious of thumb-sucking,"
Valerian has a fairly wide range of uses in the home medicine cabinet. Valerian can induce restful sleep it has shown some promise in helping reduce thumb sucking and nail biting in children.
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