Like a number of parents, you may be concerned about your child’s thumb, finger, or pacifier habit. You may wonder if the habit is harming your child, or have questions such as; “At what age should my child stop?” or “What will happen if the habit is prolonged?” This blog will address those concerns and give you some tips on how to wean your child from his/her habit.
Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant and many times infants begin to suck on their thumbs or other fingers while still in the womb. Infants and young children may suck their thumb, finger, or pacifier as it makes them feel secure, and comfortable. Since the sucking habit is relaxing, it may also help induce sleep. This is why some children suck their thumb, finger, or pacifier when they are tired.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children stop the use of a pacifier or thumb/finger sucking by the age of three. Dr. Matt will continue to monitor the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping in mind your child’s habit. To avoid long term problems such as an altered bite, intervention may be recommended for children who still have a sucking habit after the age of three. Children who use pacifiers or suck their thumb/finger over a prolonged period of time are at risk of developing an altered bite and may experience problems with the proper growth of the mouth or alignment of the teeth.
Here are a few tips we hope will help wean your child from his or her habit:
Thumb or Finger Habit:
- Motivate the change by empowering your child. Remind your child they are a big boy or girl.
- Instead of scolding your child when he or she is sucking their thumb or fingers, try praising your child for the times they are not.
- Use a reward system for motivation. Rewarding your child with a prize of some kind for the times he or she is not sucking fingers or thumb.
- Place a clear nail polish on your child’s thumb or fingers to discourage sucking habit.
- If indicated by Dr. Matt, a habit appliance may be placed in the roof of the mouth to serve as a reminder for the child to not suck their thumb or fingers.
- Try to wean your child off his or her pacifier gradually. Limit use of the pacifier to nap time or bed time only.
- Cut the tip of the pacifier a little at a time until eventually the child no longer wants it. Cutting the tip little by little eliminates the satisfaction the child gets by sucking the pacifier.
- Have your child place the pacifier under his or her pillow for the pacifier fairy. Comparable to the tooth fairy, the pacifier fairy takes the pacifier and gives it to another baby.
- Positive reinforcement and the reward system may also motivate your child to discontinue their pacifier habit.