Questions and Answers about Thumb-sucking

The most common questions and answers about thumb-sucking.

When do babies start sucking their thumbs?

Unborn children suck their thumbs as early as the fifth month of pregnancy, which can be seen on many ultrasound images.

Is thumb-sucking a normal behaviour?

Babies often start sucking their thumb in the womb. They prepare themselves for sucking on the breast and this is absolutely normal. Sucking the thumb is a calming and sleeping aid for babies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend that children should stop at age 3, as intense and frequent sucking can lead to problems with the teeth and jaw.

Is thumb-sucking harmful?

Thumb-sucking is ok and from an educational point of view nothing speaks against a baby sucking the thumb. Until the end of the second year of life, sucking serves as a consolation for calming down and as a sleep aid.

Dentists recommend that children from 3 years of age wean themselves from sucking their thumbs in order to prevent misaligned teeth.

What are the benefits of thumb-sucking?

– Thumb-sucking helps the child to calm down and sleep through the night.
– In contrast to the pacifier, the thumb can not get lost and is always available.
– Thumb-sucking children have a reduced risk of allergies.

How many children suck their thumbs?

Thumb-sucking is common, but it is very age dependent. Different studies have come to different results. Approximately 20% of 1-year-olds and 6% of 5-year-olds suck their thumb.

When should a child stop sucking their thumb?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend that children should stop at age 3 as intense and frequent sucking can lead to problems with the teeth and jaw.

Which one is better: Thumb-sucking or using a pacifier?

– Thumb-sucking and pacifier both satisfy the baby’s natural need to suck.
– Pacifiers are more tooth-friendly and therefore cause less damage.
– Pacifiers are easier to wean off than the thumb.
– Thumb-sucking children have a reduced risk of allergies.
– It’s not uncommon that children start sucking their thumb after the use of a pacifier.

Is thumb-sucking a mental disorder?

Sucking the thumb serves as calming and sleeping aid for babies and is considered a normal behavior. For older children thumb-sucking can be considered a habit and and it’s relatively common. It’s estimated that around 6% of 5-year-olds suck their thumb.

Very intense and frequent thumb-sucking well beyond the usual age can be a behavioral disorder that requires psychological evaluation.

Do children always suck on the same thumb?

Most children have a favorite thumb or finger. However, there is a wide variety.

How to stop thumb-sucking

There are many ways to help your child break the thumb-sucking habit:
– Observe the thumb-sucking: In which situations does it occur, what does the child need at that moment?
– Positive reinforcement (praise the child when they are not sucking)
– There are good children’s books that deal with thumb sucking. You can find an overview of the best children’s books under Book overview.
– Give the thumb a identity (e.g. the thumb likes to hide in the mouth). More details on this under thumb identity.
– Use an anti-sucking device. You can find a detailed overview of the best products to help you stop sucking your thumb in the product overview.

You can find many more tips and tricks under what to do against thumb sucking.

Is there a substitute for thumb-sucking?

For very young children (<6 months), switching to a pacifier can be worthwhile, as the weaning is much easier than with thumb-sucking. But it is not uncommon that a child starts sucking the thumb after the use of a pacifier.

Thumb-sucking and hair twisting

For many children, thumb sucking is a reassurance gesture. Brushing or twisting hair is also such a gesture and they often appear together.

How long is thumb-sucking normal?

For babies and toddlers thumb-sucking is normal and harmless. Many children stop sucking their thumbs themselves at some point, even without intervention. Often, however, this is much later than the dentists’ recommended weaning at 3 years of age.

How can I prevent thumb-sucking?

Thumb-sucking cannot be completely prevented. However, research shows that children who are actively offered a pacifier are less likely to suck their thumbs. However, this is very dependent on the child, some simply do not like the pacifier.

Which is worse: pacifier or thumb?

– The pacifier is less harmful to teeth and jaws and is easier to wean off.
– The thumb is always available and it is not a foreign object made of plastic.
– Thumb-sucking children have a lower risk of allergies.
– Children won’t suck their thumb when they play actively. But can still use a pacifier while doing so.

What is the best book to help breaking the habit of thumb-sucking?

A children’s book is a wonderful way to talk about thumb-sucking. The most famous children’s thumb-sucking books are:
– Anna and Dedo: A Thumb Ventures Out
– Thumbs Up, Brown Bear
– Thumbs Up For Ted’s Thumbsie
– Dana’s Finger Is Set Free
– Isadora!: Take That Thumb Out of Your Mouth

You can find a detailed description and further tips and tricks in our book review.

What is the best product to break the habit of thumb-sucking?

There are many products available that can help children stop sucking their thumb. Which of them is the right one depends on the child, the age of the child and the intensity and frequency of thumb-sucking. You can find a detailed overview of the best products in the product overview.


Further questions

Do you have further questions about thumb-sucking that aren’t answered here? You might find the answer in our All About Thumb Sucking article. If not, write us a short message so that we can add your question together with a suitable answer.

More Information

Much more information about thumb-sucking can be found here. Find a detailed overview of the best products that help your child stop sucking their thumb in the product review and a detailed overview of children’s books in the book review.