Thumb-Sucking and Dummies

  • By: The DIG for Kids
  • Time to read: 3 min.

While most parents are comfortable with a baby who uses a dummy or sucks their thumb, when the habit continues in toddlers, parents often seek advice on how to help the child break the habit. While this process can often be difficult for both the child and the parent, with a little perseverance, their baby will be a dummy-free big kid in just a short time.

Which is better – the dummy or the thumb?

From a dental health standpoint, both thumb-sucking and dummy use cause no concern in the beginning but should be discontinued once a child’s teeth come in to Protect Their Teeth. Ongoing use can make the teeth protrude, establishing the need for dental treatment later in childhood.

As long as a child gives up thumb-sucking or dummy reliance early on, it really doesn’t matter which habit they have. However, while you can ultimately toss a child’s dummy into the bin if they are reluctant to give it up on their own, breaking a thumb-sucking habit may be considerably more difficult.

So What Works?

While most children give up their dummy or stop sucking their thumb on their own, some do object – often loudly – to the notion of breaking the habit. For such kids, parents may have to make an extra effort to help them to find comfort without the use of sucking. Children respond well to praise, so parents should talk with their kids about how well they are doing as they begin the process of outgrowing their habit. For some children, pleasing their parents is motivation enough.

For the more resistant child, parents may want to implement a reward system. Small rewards for daily achievement, coupled with the promise of a special reward after a specified number of dummy-free days, may be enough to convince even the most determined child to reconsider.

Although it is important to get your child to give up their dummy or stop sucking their thumb, it is imperative that this be done in a gentle, loving way. To tease or belittle a child is cruel and harmful, so be sure that your child doesn’t feel diminished by your chosen method.

My Child Refuses to Stop

Unlike parents who can discard a dummy when they believe that the time is right, those with children who prefer their thumb have a more difficult task. Topical products, designed to be painted on the child’s thumb, often help since the taste is objectionable. Another tactic that works for some kids is a simple reminder system, such as applying a small bandage to the preferred thumb. This method is especially useful for children who seem to pop their thumb into their mouth without giving it conscious thought.

For the few children who find no success with the above methods, a paediatric dentist may need to be consulted. Dental professionals can install a device that acts to dissuade kids from putting a thumb into their mouth. The appliance prevents the thumb from putting pressure on the teeth and palate, diminishing the pleasure for the child.

When Will They Stop?

Try to relax and remember that your child will probably give up the habit very soon, even without parental prodding. By the time that kids enter school, many will feel uncomfortable to suck their thumb in the presence of peers, so the habit will probably be diminished greatly. With time, thumb-sucking or dummy use will be nothing more than a memory.

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