As a new mom, it is quite natural to be obsessed about your little ones’ daily routine. Be it the napping or feeding habits. Or, simply the day-to-day little things that they do. And, sucking their thumbs is one of them. This is a trait that the babies adopt from the time that they are inside the womb. And, it continues for some time post their birth as well.
It is said that the munchkins suck their thumbs to express emotions that they can’t put forth otherwise. So, if the infants are feeling nervous, scared, sleepy, or even hungry, they might start sucking their thumbs in an effort to calm themselves down. And, that is why every baby tends to suck their thumb at an initial stage. Having heard many ill-effects of this trait, you might be tempted to stop them. But, don’t do so as this can put them completely off-guard.
This might come as a surprise to you. But, sucking thumbs is an entirely healthy habit for infants and newborns. Doing this can give them a sense of comfort and emotional security (1). This habit helps teach them the concept of self-soothing at a very young age itself so you should refrain yourself from stopping them. Also, like forbidden fruits are more tempting, saying ‘no’ might make the little infants more intrigued. Thus, they might end up sucking their thumbs even more. And, this compulsion might result in them becoming rebels early on itself.
What you can do instead is keep a track of this habit. And, once you get a better understanding of their routine, try to curb this habit in a gradual manner. So, whenever you notice them putting their thumbs in the mouth, try and distract them. Maybe, occupy their hands by giving them a squeeze ball to play with. Or, just show them a cartoon video that they really like, be it online or on TV. Just try and make sure that their fingers are engaged so that they don’t go back to sucking their thumbs. Also, if you notice this habit more when they are just about to sleep, distract them by reading an animated bedtime story or just sing a song.
While the habit is more or less alright until the age of five, it is after this age that it might cause bigger problems. When the babies start to get their permanent teeth, there is a likelihood of them developing a dental problem. These dental problems can vary depending on the duration, frequency, and intensity of the thumb sucking. This might cause a misalignment in their teeth or even result in a protrusion. Also, this might lead to your little ones developing difficulties in pronouncing certain words. This might even cause a malformation of the roof of their mouth (2).
When babies are young, they don’t suck their thumb so often and even the intensity is quite less. But, as they grow older, this habit can intensify for some. Try to observe the intensity with which they suck their thumbs. And, if you notice that the intensity is pretty severe, make an effort to get your little angels to drop this habit much early on, maybe by the age of three or four.
Maybe, you will have to push your little ones harder if they are pretty adamant about not giving up the habit. You can always encourage them in a positive and reassuring manner. So, yes, distract them in the discussed ways and get them to drop this habit. Especially before their permanent teeth set in. And, never adopt harsh methods as this might result in an opposite effect altogether.
Getting your tiny angels to drop this habit might require you to use all the patience you have got. But, with pregnancy and motherhood, this is a skill that you might already be amazing at. So, don’t let this get you all worked up. You have got this!