Easy Ways To Stop Thumb Sucking And Finger Sucking Home Remedies: How To Get Your Baby, Children To Stop Sucking Fingers

easy ways to stop thumb sucking

Easy Ways To Stop Thumb Sucking And Finger Sucking Home Remedies: How To Get Your Baby, Children To Stop Sucking Fingers

Thumb sucking or finger sucking is the act of sticking on finger (usually the thumb) or more than one finger in the mouth and sucking. Sometimes the sucking can be vigorous but other times it might be mild but the point is that the act of suckling at a finger often brings a soothing sensation to the child.

I remember vaguely as a child, I had a friend, I think her name was Oluchi. We used to play a lot together and were as close as one would expect from kids of about 4 years old. Oluchi used to suck her thumb them, especially when she was tired or hungry. I remember beginning to dislike Oluchi because I didn’t like that she would want to touch me after sticking her finger in her mouth. Thumb sucking was strange to me as a child because I didn’t suck my thumb and my brothers didn’t either. I also have come to realize that thumb-sucking is very common among children of a certain age (between 0-5 years). Within the age range parents of children who exhibit this habit often go out of their ways to correct it in their children.

Thumb or finger sucking is a reflex action and has also been observed in monkeys, chimpanzees and other primates. Therefore, it is not a condition that is unique to only the human species.

This thumb sucking or finger sucking is thought to have stemmed from infants reflex to suckling on anything in order to get food. Infants are born with the reflex to suckle the nipple in order to get food. This same principle applies to sucking a feeding bottle or the pacifier. Often children start to show this thumb sucking tendency from as young as 4 months old, either when they are beginning to be weaned or just when they are hungry and this gives them a pleasurable or a soothing effect which causes them to grow the habit.

Some infants have also been known to develop this finger sucking reflex even before they are born. Some babies have been seen via ultrasound sucking their fingers in-utero from 15 weeks old. This brings a lot to question when discussing the possible causes of this particular habit.

Statistically, children stop sucking their fingers at the average of about 5 years old. I cannot say though if this statistic is so because a lot of parents often go out of their way to stop their children from sucking their fingers once they are 2 years old or if it is just natural for the urge to suckle to wane as the child gets older. We hope that over time with scientific advancements we might get a clearer view of exactly what causes thumb sucking or finger sucking and effective means to help children stop the habit.

Thumb sucking or finger sucking are known to stimulate some receptors that help relieve stressors, mental and physical tension.

EFFECTS OF FINGER SUCKING IN LITTLE CHILDREN

Usually finger sucking in little children have no immediate effect on their health because it does nothing but sooth them and sometimes even lulls them to sleep. However, when suckling continues beyond a certain age (4 years), it becomes problematic. Children with thumb or finger sucking habit have difficulty developing proper speech pattern. This might occur as a result of the child sticking their fingers in their mouth too often and trying to speak over it and also as a result of the effect the finger sucking might have on the formation of the child’s teeth and tongue.

Children with the thumb sucking habit often develop problems with their dentition, including a gap in their upper and lower incisors, buck teeth and sometimes a malformation of the tongue due to constantly being pressed down by the fingers and having to support the suckling motion. This effect of suckling however is only serious when the child suckles up until he/she starts to grow permanent teeth. This might lead to major problems and might require the child to use braces and even undergo speech therapy to correct some ill pronounced words.

Children who suckle beyond the 5-year mark are likely to suffer social difficulties because of their poor speech and the taunting they would have to endure from their peers for still having ‘’childish habits’’. Thumb sucking retained well into adulthood might be merely as a result of inability to stop the habit or may be a sign or a stereotypical movement disorder or a psychological disorder.

Finally, children who suck their fingers are exposed to loads of communicable diseases from sticking dirty fingers in their mouth and also possibly ingest poisonous substances they might have touched at some point. Children with this habit are to be watched closely at least until they are helped to stop the sucking.

HOW TO GET CHILDREN TO STOP THUMB SUCKING OR FINGER SUCKING

We know that habits are difficult to break. That is after all why they are referred to as habits and often times when habits are formed the individual, or in this case the child, that has this habit grows to be fully dependent on the habit and like an addict, needs to be weaned off it.

In a typical African setting, using Nigerian as a case study, parents go to great heights to help their children stop sucking their thumb. Some of these measures are inhumane and may not even be effective in the long run but some of them have been found the work. Below is a list of some African methods used to help children stop thumb sucking or finger sucking.

  1. Applying bitter leaf or any bitter herb to the child’s fingers. The idea is that this bad tasting herbs would discourage the child from going on to suck their fingers. This method is not very effective because rather than discourage the child, some children suck their fingers more persistently in order to get rid of the bitter taste and then return to enjoying their bare fingers.
  2. Plaster, paper tape or pieces of cloth are tied to the fingers. This works for some children but persistent suckers who have grown teeth would just go ahead to rip of whatever was used to cover the fingers and go on to suck on whatever little piece of flesh they can free from the cloth.
  3. Inflicting razor cuts or minor burns on the child’s finger. This is a very inhuman method that involves consciously inflicting injuries to the child in order to ensure that the fingers being sucked are in pains and sucking would do nothing but inflict further pain. The child would then be forced to leave the fingers alone and by the time the wounds heal the urge to suck the finger might be gone. This is too barbaric and still not certain to work on every child. Some children still go ahead to stick injured fingers in their mouths risking infections and aggravating the whole issue.

Some scientific methods have also been tried to help children stop sucking their fingers. Note that every child is different and to help your child with this you must undertake it as an individual journey. Know your child and know what keeps him or her motivated.

  • Chewelry – these are jewellery that can be put on a child as a form of a pacifier that they can stick in their mouth and suckle on. This is more effective in younger kids who may not be very conscious of the difference and then you can also stop them from suckling on the toy.
  • Talk – It has been found that talking helps with older kids. Informing them of the germs they are getting into their system and the possible effect it might have on their teeth helps to bring the child on your side. You can also show the child pictures and videos of what could happen in order to encourage them. Ensure that the videos are child friendly though because you do not want to give your child nightmares.
  • Using edible but bad tasting nail polish – this is also as I had described earlier with using bitter herbs. It tends to be more effective if the child is on board with the aim of the set up so that the weird tasting would also be a form of a reminder when they instinctively want to suck their finger.
  • Finding out the child’s best sucking times. Some children suck their fingers when they are bored or hungry, some suck in their sleep and others suck as a nervous habit when they are tense. For children that suck because they are bored or hungry or nervous, you can attempt to remove these triggers as much as possible. The child that sucks in his/her sleep can have a sock worn over the favourite hand while sleeping so he/she can’t suck.
  • Plastic thumb or finger covers – work on the same principle as the bandage or cloth over the fingers that I described earlier.
  • Nipit hand stopper.

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