From the day he came into our lives, he would do this little thing that I thought was so cute. He would grab a corner of his blankie and keep it around his mouth and nose as if smelling the embedded scents. While doing this, he would suck his right thumb.
At the time he was less than a year old, so of course I thought it was the most adorable thing ever. But as he grew older, so did his obsession of putting his thumb in his mouth. At first I thought that this habit would go away when he would enter preschool, it didn’t. I thought okay maybe when he goes to Kindergarten. NOPE! Still has this habit.
I’ve read reports as to how this could affect a person’s teeth if this continues and it is alarming that your child could have potential problems when they get older. Not only does this affect the teeth but the skin can also develop scabs or callous, which my little one is having this issue now. I explain to him that this is happening because of his habit but it seems my words are going in one ear and out the other.
Breaking the Habit
We try to break this habit by reminding him not to suck his thumb when we catch him doing this. It usually happens while watching TV, laying down to nap or sitting quietly (which is rare). But there is just nothing that will stop him from putting his thumb back in his mouth, as if by instinct. I started researching on what can be done to stop this habit and found in this article by WebMD (see article here) that children usually break off this habit before they enter Kindergarten, which my son IS NOW in Kinder and still hasn’t stopped.
Now, this same article states:
“A child usually turns to the thumb when bored, tired, or upset.”
This is when my light bulb turned on since like I mentioned above, this usually happens when he is sitting down and about to fall asleep. Which makes sense because thumb-sucking is something that soothes a child.
Dab Nails: There are many ways to help a child break this habit and just see what works best for your own child. One of the recommendations is to put a dab of liquid on the nail such as Thum Liquid or use something bitter. A family member advised to dip his thumb into an onion to get that bitter taste and make him reduce his habit. Well, I haven’t dared to do that to my son but if I don’t like raw onion myself then I’m sure that will work too.
Buy Gloves: My son enjoys wearing gloves but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I buy these cute gloves. A pair of these cuties would be great since the regular gloves cover all his fingers and are not that great for being inside warm places. Having his gloves does help avoid temptation of putting his thumb in his mouth though. So these special made gloves would really help him reduce the thumb sucking. This momma has some shopping to do.
Play: Other ideas to prevent your child from thumb-sucking is by interacting with your child so as to make him forget that he is bored and needs to suck his thumb. Maybe making a game out of it and see the least amount of time he spends without sucking his thumb and put the data on a chart, give praise or a small prize. My boys enjoy blowing bubbles, so this is a great incentive for my oldest.
Read: Sometimes reading books that talk about certain issues can be helpful especially if it’s one of their favorite characters. Below are a couple of books that could help ease the pain of letting habits go.
Don’ts: It’s not recommended to yank the finger out of your child’s mouth since this would only cause a tug o’ war between you and your child and would not be helpful at all. Guilty! Oops!
Meanwhile, see what works best for your own child as all are unique and what works for one might not work for the other. So far playing and entertaining my son has helped with reducing the thumb-sucking. So, this momma has some more playing to do for now!
PS. What other advise or tools would you give a mommy for dealing with a thumb-sucking child? Do you have a child who sucks their thumb? How old was your child when they stopped, or is it still ongoing?