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  1. #1

    Thoughts On Thumbsucking

    Hi Mummies,

    I am a little bit worried about my daughter's thumb-sucking habit. She's 20 months old now, and I wanted her to get rid of sucking her thumb. She might catch a lot of germs and get sick. Do you have any thoughts or ideas on how I can help my daughter stop thumbsucking? And is it really true that her teeth can be deformed or protrude because of thumbsucking?

    All the best,

  2. #2
    Hello Kriziela,

    Thumb sucking can cause teeth to grow crooked because of the pressure the thumb puts on the teeth. Teeth will move under pressure. Think about how braces work. If you have crooked teeth that need to be straightened, the dentist will put pressure on the teeth (tightening braces at each visit) in order to get the teeth to move, ever so slowly, into the correct position.

    With thumb sucking, you are doing the same thing. Putting pressure on the teeth, and it can cause the teeth to move. Of course the amount of tooth movement will depend upon how much pressure is being applied to them throughout the day/night. If she just sucks her thumb for a short time, every so often, it may not affect the tooth alignment at all. If she loves to suck her thumb and does it often, then the teeth will tend to move more.

    So how can you help your daughter to stop sucking her thumb? This can be a challenge, because usually children suck their thumb for security... it soothes them, and is something they use to help pacify them.

    So the first thing I would do is make life very routine and secure for your little one. If you've been away on vacation and you're returning home, you'll need to recognize that a 20 month old doesn't have good long term memory yet, and she may have to readjust to her "new" environment all over again.

    When I worked as the Office Manager for a preschool, we enrolled children who were 2 1/2 years old. There were some parents who only wanted their children in preschool 2 days a week, and our 2 day a week program was on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    So here's a child who has been used to being home, with mum, for 2 1/2 years, and all of a sudden mum thinks that preschool is going to be a fun experience for their child. She drops her child off the first day, only to learn, upon pick-up, that her child cried the entire time. NOT the "fun" she thought her child would have.

    But though preschool can be a fun place to be, the child was placed into a brand new situation. The room is new, the caregivers are new, the other children are new and the activities are new. The only thing familiar to this child is the clothing she has on her body and possibly the blanket and lunch box she brought with her.

    So I quickly learned that a young child coming into a 2 day a week program would benefit from starting out coming 5 days a week, for just the morning, leaving right after lunch. The reason for this is because a child who comes on Tuesday is going to take a long time to adjust, but might actually be "okay" by the time they are picked up - having cried most of the time.

    When the child is dropped off on Thursday, they will cry, but for a shorter time. Now, the child is picked up on Thursday and is home Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and when she's brought back to preschool on Tuesday, it's like starting all over again.

    So often we started these "two day a week" children by having them come every morning for one or two weeks, to get them adjusted as quickly (and painlessly) as possible. We even encouraged mum to visit with the child as often as they wanted, before the child's actual start date.

    The point I want to make is that security is super important for little ones and they don't remember well from one week to the next. I once knew of a family that was having marriage problems. They had 4 children, the youngest of which was 9 months old. The mother moved out of the home for a few weeks, and when she returned the 9 month old viewed her as a "stranger" because they forget so quickly.

    If daddy is away for a period of time, you may find that Ryden clings to you when daddy is in the room and this is simply because she is insecure because he hasn't been around enough. When daddy leaves to go to work, she may think he will come back in a few minutes, as if he has gone to pick up milk at the store. If he doesn't come right back, she may start to wonder if he is ever going to come back. Now, though her little mind may not think in the same "conversations" like ours does, her body will tell her whether this is a comfortable, secure situation for her, or whether she's becoming anxious and unsettled and it's not comfortable for her.

    The number one biggest help you can give your daughter to help her stop sucking her thumb is to make her little life as secure as possible. This means routine.

    If you've returned from a vacation, spend a lot of time at home so she becomes familiar with that space again.

    If you do go out, be sure you are her only caregiver. If she has been away from daddy, and he wants to spend time with her, make sure you are present to give her added security and comfort while she "warms up" to daddy again.

    When you are home with Ryden, make sure you are giving her a lot of one on one attention. Read books to her while she sits on your lap. Eat meals with her - make it a special time for the two of you. Make play dough and work the play dough together. Do coloring with her. Do crafts with her. Sing with her. Play with her. The goal is making her feel totally secure and this may just take a week, but it will be a week of a lot of focus on her.

    If Ryden is still taking a bottle, this focused week may be the perfect week to wean her off the bottle, and if you are still giving her formula (you posted before that she still drinks formula) then this week may be a good week for tansitioning her off of formula and onto whole milk (can be cow milk or goat milk or almond milk, etc.). Raw milk from a reliable source is best because it has lots of digestive enzymes which have not been killed off by the pasteurization process.

    My guess is that as you bring routine into Ryden's life, you will see her suck her thumb less and less. If you're holding her on your lap, and she puts her thumb in her mouth, you can give her something to hold (like having her hold a book between her two hands while you read to her) or you can redirect her to "busy her hands" rather than sucking her thumb.

    I also think that stopping the bottle and offering a cup or even a sippy cup will be a benefit to her (and her teeth) as well.

    If you want to take this week to just give her lots of focused attention and establish a routine, and then you want to work on removing the bottle next week you could do that too. It's pretty much a matter of how much attention you can give her this week. If you can fully focus on her, you may be able to do both in a week. If your attention is divided and you can't spend as much time with her as she needs, then you may have to work on routine this week and weaning next week.

    There's a page on this website that lists some parenting courses, and one that caught my eye is this one:

    Rock-A-Bye Baby-Getting from ‘blues’ to ‘bliss’

    Babyhood is the time when you can have the biggest influence on your child’s emotional intelligence, security, self-confidence and capacity for success. In this presentation you will learn:

    How your affection literally grows your child’s brain!
    How to give your baby and child the most emotionally secure start in life
    The key early childhood experiences that promote your child’s emotional intelligence
    How healthy emotional development ensures your child’s physical health – for the long term
    Please let me know your thoughts and feel free to post back with any other questions or comments you would like to add.

    Warm Regards,

    Last edited by 5Homebirths4Kate; 2nd December 2012 at 05:14 AM.

  3. #3
    Kate provided you with an awesome, thorough explanation and some tips for breaking the habit. I would like to add something from a discussion I recently had with my chiropractor. She says some of her baby patients suck their thumb as a way of self-adjusting. They are pressing on bone in the top of the mouth that may be out of place, especially following a difficult or traumatic birth. You may want to consider taking her to a pediatric chiropractor for evaluation and adjustment.

  4. #4
    I've seen Cranio-Sacral adjustments done by putting pressure on the hard palate and/or soft palate of baby's mouth (it looks like the baby is sucking on the practitioner's finger) so I understand what mom2many is saying about babies "self adjusting".

    I would definitely consider taking Ryden to a Chiropractor or an Osteopath or other type of practitioner who does structural manipulation to be sure that everything is in alignment.

    If you just want to discourage thumb sucking, you could try putting mittens on Ryden's hands. She may pull them off, but if she leaves them on they may be a reminder not to suck. Not sure how well that will work.

    Warm Regards,


  5. #5
    She had a traumatic birth indeed, right I will have to take her to a chiropractor, just to make sure everything's okay.

    I noticed there's lesser thumbsucking now that she's back on her routine. She only sucks her thumb when she's about to sleep. The "attention" really worked. I already tried mittens before and it didn't work, I even tried wrapping her whole hand tightly with cloth but not too tight that it will affect circulation. She managed to take it off using her teeth

    She already know how to drink from a sippy cup hurray! I'm happy that she learned it easily. I'm excited when she's totally off her bottle. It makes me feel that she's growing up too fast. LOL.

    Thank you so much for the great insights.

    All the best,

  6. #6
    You're addressing the root of the problem by giving her extra attention during her transition back to home and her normal routine, and that's the best thing to do.

    Sometimes it's hard to see your child wean from a bottle because it can make you feel like you don't have your "baby" anymore. They do grow up quickly. But if you completely take the bottle away from her it will be a good thing. Let her have her sippy cup when she has her meals, and at 19 months, she should only need her milk then. Whether you're giving her a snack or a meal, make it a rule to only let her have her cup/drink at the table or in her high chair.

    This will help her not to be attached to the bottle (it's much harder to wean a child off the bottle as they get older) and it will also help her not to get too many calories from her milk and not enough from other, healthy foods. You don't want her developing a preference for milk over raw or freshly steamed vegetables and fruits. The higher calorie foods can add weight that's not needed to your child. Whole milk is fine. Avocado is fine, but be sure she's getting a variety of other fruits and vegetables too.

    Warm Regards,


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