Should you worry about your child’s thumb-sucking?

Despite how natural it is, parents sometimes worry about their child’s thumb sucking habit. But, thumb-sucking is harmless at least until the child starts to develop hi permanent teeth around the age of 4 or 5. However, if your toddler is dependent on the habit even after 4 or 5, then it’s time to press the panic button. 

However, the habit does not, in any way, harm the child’s development or prevent him from meeting the milestones. Here are 5 such secrets you never knew about thumb-sucking.

Secret #1

Sucking is life skill babies learn in the womb itself. And that is how they are able to suck and feed on the breasts as soon as they are born. A baby can become a thumb or a pacifier sucker in the initial months. Sucking becomes a way for the baby to fall asleep, calm down or to just feel good.

Secret #2

Why exactly does a baby thumb-suck? Sucking helps the baby meet developmental milestones, eat or bond with the family, calm down on a car drive or even sleep through the night.

Secret #3

Sucking does not stop babies from meeting their milestones or make it hard for toddlers between 1 and 3 years of age to talk, play or meet other developmental milestones. You should only be concerned if your toddler even after the age of 4 is dependent on thumb-sucking. 

Secret #4

Will sucking a pacifier or thumb hurt your baby’s teeth? Sucking can alter the shape of the mouth and the teeth, especially when the permanent teeth start coming in (around 6 years).The longer your child sucks, the more the shape of the mouth gets altered.

Secret #5

Sucking puts pressure on the roof and sides of the mouth. This prevents the teeth from meeting top to bottom. Later, the child might likely need braces to correct this. Also, lisping might be another problem connected to thumb or pacifier sucking. The lisp can then be corrected with speech therapy.

When to worry?

If your child’s adult teeth have not started coming in, don’t worry too much about thumb sucking - there’s no sense in worrying about your one or two year old sucking his or her thumb. In all likelihood, he or she will stop in another year or so.

However, if your child is heavily dependent on the habit even after 4 or 5 years, its time you did something about it. Also, if you notice dental deformities like the upper front teeth move outward and the lower front teeth move inward, then its time you act. However, forcefully curbing the habit might affect his psychological state. So, try other strategies instead. Talk to him about his habit and help him find some other ways to cope. May be a blanket or a stuffed toy will help. Also, use creative ways to make your child understand he is growing up and that it also means he should not be sucking his thumb.

And while you do all of these, don’t forget to breathe and relax as well as kids will indeed grow out of this with time. So stay cool and leave it as is before it is really alarming. 

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