Why weaning from finger sucking can be harder than giving up the pacifier

Watch Video: Why weaning from finger sucking can be harder than giving up the pacifier by Alanna Levine, MD, ...
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Why weaning from finger sucking can be harder than giving up the pacifier

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Having a child who sucks his fingers or sucks his thumb can be a lot more challenging than a child who had a pacifier when they were younger, because a pacifier you can decide when to pull that plug. I tell parents that children who suck their thumb or suck their fingers when younger are actually practicing self-reliance, because they found something that soothes them and makes them feel comfortable, and that's something that as parents we should embrace. Once your child enters the preschool age, that's when they can understand that there are times when it's appropriate to suck their fingers and times when it's not. So if you have a child that walks around sucking their fingers are all the time, you can say, you know what? I see that you need to be soothed right now. But if you want to be soothed, you need to go into your room, because that's something that we do in private. That gives the child the message, do I want to be part of what the family's doing right now, or do I need to be soothing myself by myself? You need to be consistent. So every time they're in common spaces with their fingers in their mouth, you need to usher them back into their room so they can get that message that it's okay to do it, but it's not something you can do in public. Most children will give up the habit on their own by the age of 6. But there are some children that continue to do so longer but do so in the privacy of their own bedroom. There are some instances where you're outside of the house where you don't have a room to send them to if they want to suck their thumb or their fingers in private. And in these instances, I would try to avoid the nag of take your fingers out of your mouth, take your fingers out of your mouth, take your fingers out of your mouth. We can give a gentle reminder of, we're outside. What don't we do outside? And give the child the option to make the choice to stop themselves. If you find that they don't in the moment, I wouldn't engage in a power struggle. I think when you go home, you have to think of some positive reinforcement and some positive ways you can encourage them to stop the habit, which could be very difficult for them. So sometimes that's a sticker chart. And if they get a certain number of stickers for outings without thumb sucking they get a special date with mommy or daddy. Whatever you think will be motivating to your child. But the key is to avoid the nag, avoid the power struggle in the moment, and explain to your child that you think they're going to make the right choice to suck their fingers in private.

Watch Video: Why weaning from finger sucking can be harder than giving up the pacifier by Alanna Levine, MD, ...

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Alanna Levine, MD

Pediatrician & Author

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York-based pediatrician and a mom of two children.  As a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Levine frequently appears on television and in print speaking about breaking medical news and common parenting topics.  Dr. Levine is also a contributor for BabyCenter.com, on the board of advisors for GetSweaty.com, and on the executive committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media.Dr. Levine sees patients at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in New York and is on staff at Nyack Hospital and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.   She completed her internship and residency at the Mount Sinai Hospital, received her medical degree at Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel, a master’s degree in medical sciences from Boston University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.

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