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Thumb Sucking & Baby Soothing

Jul 16, 2014

For babies, thumb sucking or finger sucking is a completely normal action and habit.  Many parents worry about their baby forming the habit of thumb sucking, because they don’t want their baby to grow into a child and still walk around with a thumb in their mouth.  At a certain point, it’s appropriate for children to stop thumb sucking, but early on, the process is actually an important self-soothing technique. 

When a baby finds its thumb, the process can be truly enlightening.  The baby has, presumably for the first time, found a way to comfort and calm itself.  Some babies begin thumb sucking or finger sucking as a way to soothe them during a stressful situation.  According to infant and toddler consultant Elsa Chahin, there is nothing more gratifying for the baby than when he finds his own thumb, because this begins the origin of self-soothing.  When a baby has found the thumb, it can be used as a tool for calming and comfort, and as an opportunity for babies to explore themselves as individuals.  A baby that is allowed to self-soothe is allowed to explore healing and comfort on his own terms. 

When a child has become accustomed to self-soothing through thumb sucking, it can be a difficult habit to break.  Thumb sucking is completely normal and acceptable for babies and toddlers, but as children grow, they should reach a point where they do not need to rely on this habit for comfort. 

Dentist Michelle Kelman recommends that children stop thumb sucking or pacifier use by age three.  She recommends this age because this is a time when these habits can begin to cause detriment to the teeth, jaw, and oral health of the child. 

Experts agree that thumb sucking and baby soothing are good for children. Likewise, suckling is naturally a soothing action for the child, causing them to explore ways to continue this motion.  It has even been shown that babies sometimes suck their thumbs in utero.  Small babies are using this technique to comfort themselves in times of alarm or strife.  When a child reaches the age of three or four, it’s recommended that the thumb-sucking habit be broken, and parents will need to enforce the forming of new habits for their child.  Children will often strongly resist at first, but experts have said the habit can often be broken in just a few days. 


Thumb Sucking And Baby Soothing:


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my nephew is 4 and still sucks his thumb. to help him stop my brother has been offering him rewards for every 5 hours he goes without doing it. we have found it's best to keep him preoccupied so he's not thinking about it. it has definitely helped him to stop.

our little girl is definitely a thumb sucker. it worried me at first but this article has definitely helped to ease some of my concerns.

Our baby used to cry a lot and I found that holding her really close to my chest helped her calm down quicker. 

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