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Thumb Sucking

Top ten tips to stop thumb sucking

Why do children suck their thumbs? What problems can it cause? And how can it be stopped? These are questions which many parents grapple with. While breaking the habit can be difficult, there are many different ways to stop thumb sucking. We’d like to share our top ten tips to stop thumb sucking.

Why do children thumb suck?

Before we offer our tips to stop thumb sucking, it is important to know why children thumb suck. After all, it is difficult to tackle a problem unless you know how it started.

Many children suck their thumbs while in the womb. It is a natural reflex and becomes associated in their minds with “comfort” and “security.” This often continues post-birth, but most children will naturally stop thumb sucking as a toddler. Long-term issues only start to emerge if the child is still sucking their thumb beyond the age of four or five. In these long-term cases, a common reason that the child continues to suck their thumb is as a coping mechanism. This is often due to worry or anxiety about a big change in the life: a new school, a house move or a general change of environment, for example.

In these cases, the child has associated thumb sucking with a sense of security in an ever-changing world. Changes can be scary for anyone – including adults – but for a child, change can be especially daunting. Everything is new and different when young. New experiences happen regularly, and children can find this hard to deal with.

A child may also suck their thumb as a sign of hunger. While breastfeeding, they will have become used to the sucking action, and this can be a tricky habit to break.

 

Thumb and finger sucking habit?

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What problems can be caused?

It would be easy for parents to turn a blind eye to thumb sucking if there were no long-term problems connected with it. Sadly, this is not the case. Evidence suggests that if a child continues to suck their thumb beyond the age of four or five, then lasting issues can occur to their oral health as well as to their speech, and in some cases their self-esteem.

Two of the most obvious effects of long-term thumb sucking are damaged teeth and misaligned jawbones. The early years of a child’s dental development are vital, as the shape of their mouths and their teeth positioning start to form. Excessive thumb sucking can lead to crossbites, overbites and overjets. Due to irregularity of the teeth, speech problems such as lisping, imprecise pronunciation and thrusting out the tongue when talking can also occur – sometimes requiring speech therapy to resolve.

Leading dental organisations such as the Oral Health Foundation, the British Orthodontic Society and the American Dental Association recognise thumb sucking as the cause of a number of dental related issues.

 

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Children who have a long-term thumb sucking habit can also develop uncomfortable, cracked skin around their thumb. Due to regular exposure to moisture from the mouth, skin can start to look calloused and become increasingly vulnerable to bacteria. As well as looking unsightly, this can have serious implications if a child catches a nasty infection in the cracked skin.

Hair twirling is another reflex that often happens alongside thumb sucking. This is a common behaviour among many children. While the exact cause is not clear, it is believed that it can be a way of dealing with anxiety – in a similar way to thumb sucking. Fortunately, evidence suggests that these two similar behaviours can be tackled together.

The importance of sharing advice

Community is important. We’ve always known that, but the upheaval of the last two years has really hammered that home. At Thumbsie®, we are deeply passionate about maintaining a community of likeminded parents and children who can share tips and advice. Parenting can be tough; we know. That’s why we are pleased to offer support for families looking to break the thumb sucking habit. We have been there ourselves!

We love receiving feedback from parents across our social media platforms and believe that the more we share stories, advice and guidance, the stronger we become as a community.

Here are our top ten tips to stop thumb sucking:

  1. Investigate the problem

As with many long-term issues affecting your child, it is important to try to find out the root cause. In some cases, this may be difficult, but often there is a fairly obvious cause. As noted above, a child may suck their thumb as a source of comfort when they are anxious. For parents, it is important to take a step back and think “what could be causing my child’s anxiety?” Have they started a new school or changed teacher, for example? Perhaps you have recently moved house or even relocated to a new town? Or maybe it could be due to the birth of a new sibling? Many of these changes are inevitable and can be very positive in the long run, so it is important to help your child realise this. By working out what could be causing their anxiety, you will be better prepared to help break the thumb sucking habit.

  1. Be positive and reward behaviour

Children respond well to encouragement and praise, and the use of positive reinforcement can be an important parenting tool. When helping your child to overcome a thumb sucking habit, it can be really useful to show how pleased you are with their progress. Breaking the habit will not happen overnight but rewarding your child for going several days – or even just hours – without thumb sucking can be a great incentive. At Thumbsie®, we offer a very popular reward chart which can be used to monitor your child’s progress. This can be tailored to suit your family’s own targets and goals and comes with a range of bright, colourful stickers. Indeed, one happy mum told us, the stars chart is useful and my daughter loves the idea of adding a new star every morning” while another delighted parent said that the stickers provide “extra encouragement.”

Rewards and praise work!

  1. Be consistent

Consistency is really important when it comes to breaking the thumb sucking habit. Children thrive on routine. They need to know boundaries, and typically respond well to clearly set rules. At Thumbsie® we have seen time and again that families who set clear rules when it comes to thumb sucking, and are consistent at all times of day, have longer-lasting results. It can be very tempting for parents to turn a blind eye if their child starts sucking their thumb at night, for example. Perhaps you have had a long day at work and are tired. But it is vital that your child knows that the rules around thumb sucking are the same at any time of day. The same is true of long car journeys or when you are away on holiday – just because the location has changed does not mean that the routine should change.

  1. Be calm

If you have tried to help your child stop thumb sucking for a long time with limited results, it can be very frustrating. It is important, however, to keep calm. One of the main stressors of thumb sucking is anxiety, and if a child feels especially concerned about something they are likely to do even more “comfort” sucking. Show your child that you are eager for them to stop thumb sucking, but that you know it is a journey – and one you are on together.

  1. Anticipate the triggers

As we’ve said, children love routine – but that can bring its own challenges. Children often suck their thumbs at certain times or when doing particular activities. In their minds, thumb sucking becomes an action that they always do when watching TV or playing with a certain toy. Quite often, this may be a totally unconscious habit. Monitor your child and see what times they thumb suck, and what else they are doing while sucking. You can they see what triggers them and gently offer a distraction. Does your child automatically thumb suck when watching TV, for example? Next time you have the TV on, try and distract them with a silly game or a funny face – something that takes them out of the moment. You can also try to remove a favourite toy or blanket that your child plays with while sucking their thumb. But be careful about this – children can be very possessive about their favourite objects!

  1. Explain the potential effects

Another useful tip is to show your child the potential effects of long-term thumb sucking. It can be really effective to show them photos on the internet of an open bite or of damaged teeth but do it sensitively. Many children are visual learners, and a photograph of potential side-effects can really help them to understand what could happen. You could even discuss this with your family dentist, who should be happy to highlight the damage caused by thumb sucking in a child-friendly, accessible way.

  1. Engage with others

As parents we can’t keep an eye on our children 24/7, which is why it is important to have allies who can also monitor your child’s thumb sucking. If your child spends a lot of time with grandparents or with family friends, tell them about your concerns and ask them to keep the same rules and routines in place when your child is visiting. You can also speak to the parents of your children’s friends – if your child spends a lot of time at their house – and of course child carers and teachers can be particularly supportive. It all comes back to consistency. If your child can see that all the responsible adults in their lives are applying the same rules, they will find it much easier to follow them!

Fabric Thumb Guards

Worn day and night a Thumbsie® thumb guard can help your child to stop thumb sucking Buy Now
  1. Get a Thumbsie®

Even with the best will in the world, sometimes encouragement and support are not enough. That is when a Thumbsie® is needed. Children often need a physical barrier to stop thumb sucking, which is what a thumb guard offers. Thumbsie® produce guards which fit over the thumb like a glove and are secured around the wrist with Velcro, coming in five different sizes and over 40 possible fabrics. Thumbsie® is an award-winning product, having won a MadeForMums Award in 2021, alongside numerous victories at the Best Business Women Awards and from across the dental industry. We have a 4.8 out of 5 rating on Google Reviews and are officially accredited by the Oral Health Foundation.

Our thumb guards are comfortable

and come in five different sizes. For best results wear Thumbsie® day and night. Buy Now

 

  1. Make sure it fits

Thumbsies® are designed to be worn at school, home and at play – but it is crucial to make sure you have the right fit. Our how to guide shows how to find the perfect Thumbsie® for your child. The most important step to ensuring a snug-fitting Thumbsie® is to measure the length from the tip of the thumb to the bend in the wrist. Thumbsies® come in five sizes, from Extra Small to Extra Large, and we know it can be tempting to get a larger size that your child will “grow in to.” But remember, it is always much better to get the size that fits right now. This will ensure a better fit and, hopefully, quicker results. And don’t worry if you are struggling to find the right fit, we are happy to help you pick the perfect Thumbsie®. In fact, we were recently praised by a mum for “being really patient and helpful in making sure the sizing was right for my daughter.”

  1. Personalise your Thumbsie®

Last but not least, to help your child break the thumb sucking habit it is important to make sure they have fun and are totally comfortable with their Thumbsie®. We know that children have a wide range of passions and hobbies, which is why Thumbsies® come in a variety of colours, patterns and designs. We pride ourselves on ensuring that whatever your child’s interests, there will be a Thumbsie® for them. One mum told us that the choice of fabrics got her “7-year-old son excited about the whole prospect of giving up”, and another said that her daughter likes to coordinate her Thumbsie® to match her outfits.

If your child is happy with the Thumbsie® they have, they then are more likely to stick with it and wear it with pride. We often hear from parents who tell us that their child’s Thumbsie® is the talk of the playground – all their friends want one too! Whether your boy or girl loves animals, sports, superheroes, flowers or cars, we have a Thumbsie® to suit them. From flamingos to footballs, and from Santa to ballet dancers – we have it all!

And it’s not just thumb guards, we also cater for finger suckers too. We also offer a range of accessories including our reward charts, our book dedicated to Ted’s Thumbsie® journey, a cotton bag to store your guards in, and a free certificate of completion.

Parenting can be tough, and it can be especially difficult when a child is dealing with a long-term challenge like excessive thumb sucking. Jo Bates, our founder, has experienced these challenges first-hand and has built Thumbsie® from the school-gates up with one goal in mind: to help children stop thumb sucking in a supportive and fun way.

We hope you have found these tips to stop thumb sucking useful; they are designed to help busy mums and dads to work with their child, offer guidance and overcome the thumb sucking habit together. It can take a lot of work and encouragement – and the right product – but once your child has stopped thumb sucking, the sense of achievement they will feel is amazing, and often life-changing. We always love to hear your feedback, so do let us know what you think of our top tips, and tell us what has worked for you when it comes to breaking the thumb sucking habit.

Testimonials from some happy parents

“Wonderful product! Fantastic Customer service. We were so excited to discover the Thumbsie® when searching on line for ideas on how to help my daughter stop sucking her thumb. She loved choosing the designs and was excited to wear it. We also purchased a chart with stickers and that gave her extra encouragement. Highly recommended.” Ruty

“A friend recommended a Thumbsie to me, after I expressed concerns about my daughter’s thumb sucking and direction of teeth growth. I was sceptical as was sure she’d either rip it off or suck the material. I was pleasantly surprised that she did neither! She is only two and a half! She likes to choose the design she wears, along with her outfits! This morning we were at a music class, and she mistook the word ‘drum’ for ‘thumb’ and proceeded to go round the circle showing everyone her Thumbsie! They are really working! Super pleased and very happy with the quality and designs. Thanks, Thumbsie!” Gina

“I purchased some off-the-shelf and bespoke thumb guards. Jo was really patient and helpful in making sure the sizing was right for my daughter. She is still very little, but her thumb got in a horrible way after sucking it so much, so I used these to stop her from sucking it during her awake playing time. Her thumb healed completely. So much better than plasters etc which irritated her thumb further. Fun choice of fabrics. The book is a great idea too.” Francesca

 

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National Awards

We are proud to have won Innovation of the Year at the Dental Industry Awards 2019, Best Consumer Business in the Best Business Women Awards 2019 and Best Product at Family Network National Awards 2020. Read More

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Great product, would thoroughly recommend! My daughter loves wearing it and immediately stopped sucking her thumb after 7 years. Maia Morris More reviews
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