Your child was born with particular reflexes—built-in software, if you will—that enable them to perform complex tasks, one of which is the ability to suck: Suck on their breasts, bottles, pacifiers, and, yes, their thumbs. Sucking is something that babies are born to do! They were sucking even before you met them. (You could have caught a glimpse of it on the sonogram picture!) This natural habit is beneficial not just for eating, but also for boosting feel-good endorphins in your baby’s brain and triggering the soothing reflex in conjunction with the other 5 S’s. Everything is fantastic.

But practically every parent, at some point, looks at their adorable thumb-sucking cherub and wonders, “Will my child be sucking their thumb forever?” Is it necessary for me to break this habit as soon as possible?

Take a big breath first. There aren’t many thumb-sucking adults roaming the planet. It’s also very common (and very comfortable) for toddlers to desire to suck. Most children quit sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Is this to say you don’t have to intervene if your child is a die-hard thumb-sucker? Regrettably, it does not.

When a youngster continues to suck their thumb after their permanent front teeth have erupted, the behaviour can obstruct their mouth’s correct growth and alignment. The more frequently and fiercely a child sucks, the greater his or her chance of dental problems. (PS: Using a pacifier for an extended period of time might have the same effect on teeth.) The difference is that weaning a child from an object is simpler than weaning a child from an appendage!) While future orthodontic concerns are valid, if your youngster stops thumb-sucking before the age of 3 or 4, there’s little chance of long-term consequences.

The question now is how to stop the habit in a timely manner. Here are six suggestions to assist you.

Lead with respect.

Make sure you’re below your child’s eye level whenever you talk to them about their thumb-sucking. This position is quite effective in instilling respect in your youngster. Also, when we treat someone with respect, we don’t use harsh or taunting remarks that might easily make a child feel ashamed. Instead, keep your tone and words nice, focusing on the behaviour rather than the child.

Find a substitute.

Before you try to persuade your child to stop sucking their thumb, find out why they do it. (If they can’t explain why, pay attention to when they say it to figure it out for yourself.) When children are feeling uneasy or in need of reassurance, they frequently turn to their thumbs. You can work together to figure out what your youngster can do instead once you’ve figured out why they want their thumb. If your child requires assistance in settling in for the night, a lovey could be an excellent substitute. (Did you notice your child putting their thumb in their mouth without thinking? Instead, give them their lovey.)

Talk about consequences.

And we’re not talking about retaliation! If your kid is older, explain to them how thumb-sucking can harm their teeth and skin. After all, many kids have no notion that sucking their thumb is a bad behaviour they should break! Sucking your thumb might cause the soft skin on your thumb to become itchy! I don’t want you to have a mishap! Or Thumb-sucking can lead to crooked teeth. Let’s see how long you can keep your smile straight. You may always ask your child’s dentist to explain what will happen to their teeth if they don’t stop sucking if you need to.

Baby step success.

If your child sucks their thumb at different times throughout the day, consider extending one of those timeslots…just a little bit longer. If your child thumb-sucks during naps and while you tell stories, for example, you can consider allowing them to only suck their thumb during storytime. This gradual shift can help you achieve your main goal while also avoiding power clashes.

If your thumb-sucker is at least 2 years old, use a star system to reward them for their good behaviour. Simply select three behaviours to monitor: Two of your child’s habits are already in place (for example, washing hands after going potty and brushing teeth), and the third is something you’d like to modify (no thumb-sucking at naptime). Next, tell your child that they’ll get a star on their chart for each day they don’t suck their thumb during naptime. They’ll earn a special gift after they reach 10 stars!

Gossip about your child.

No, we don’t imply that you should propagate false information! Instead, loudly talk to another person (or even a stuffed animal!) about how proud you are of your child for the habit they’re attempting to eliminate while you know they’re nearby. (Children, like adults, are more inclined to believe overheard praise than praise given directly to them.) Use phrases like: Marcus has been doing a fantastic job of not sucking his thumb. I’m so proud of him. I know it’s difficult for Lydia to stop sucking her thumb, but she’s doing a fantastic job with her lovey at sleep. Later, pay someone else the same complement. Not only will this delight your child, but it will also encourage them to continue working hard!

Enlist helping hands.

The ADA recommends lightly bandaging your child’s thumb or placing a sock or glove on their hand at sleep to assist remind them that their thumb is off bounds. Furthermore, if your child truly wants to stop but needs regular reminders, speak with your child’s dentist or paediatrician about the possibility of utilising a particular mouth gadget that makes it difficult for children to continue sucking their thumb.

Whatever strategy you use, keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to put too much pressure on their children to stop smoking. Your youngster will eventually get there!


  1. Is baby sucking thumb a problem?

    Thumb sucking normally isn’t a problem until a child’s permanent teeth appear. Thumb sucking may now begin to alter the roof of the mouth (palate) or the alignment of the teeth. The frequency, length, and intensity with which your youngster sucks on his or her thumb is associated to the risk of dental problems.

  2. At what age does thumb sucking become a problem?

    Thumb sucking is usually not considered a problem in children until they reach the age of five. Thumb sucking can start to cause dental health problems at this age, such as a misaligned bite.

  3. Should thumb sucking be stopped?

    Thankfully, the American Dental Association (ADA) claims that between the ages of 2 and 4, most toddlers will quit sucking their thumbs on their own. Even at the age of four, experts do not advise parents to try to halt their child’s conduct forcibly because exerting too much pressure on your child can have the opposite impact.

  4. What are the side effects of thumbsucking?

    Thumb sucking can impact how your child eats and speaks since it affects the development of the teeth, jaw, and mouth. Thumb sucking can result in lisping and other speech difficulties, such as difficulty pronouncing harsh consonant sounds like “D” and “T.”