Specialists suggest that the best time is between three and four years old.
Most babies prefer a soother, there are a few exceptions that prefer something more natural: Their thumb. For example, my niece before being born always was sucking her thumb; it was easily noticed in her last three ultrasounds of her sucking her thumb. Up till today, my niece still uses this technique when she is tired or hungry.
Thumb sucking or using a soother is a common habit for most infants. They might do this for many reasons such as, fighting boredom or before falling asleep. If a child sucks his thumb, it can increase the risk of catching an infection more so than a soother. For obvious reasons, as it is a well-known fact, that toddlers and babies use their hands to explore their surroundings, for this reason bacteria are often found on babies’ hands.
Moreover, a child who sucks his thumb for long periods can have badly aligned teeth, phonetic and pronunciation problems, deformed teeth and even emotional distress.
How to stop your child from sucking his thumb:
It is important to identify the reason behind thumb sucking:
- Trying to fall asleep: Give him another toy to play with, or something else that will stimulate or comfort your child when it’s time to go to sleep. For example: a stuffed toy, a pillow or their favorite toy. Ask the rest of the family to help in this arduous task.
- Try to help them relax: It could be that your child does this to fight anxiety, or he feels upset or nervous. If this is the reason, just hug and hold your child close to calm his fears and little by little, he will forget about this famous “comforter”.
- Boredom: Distract your little one with games that need hand movements such as, painting, drawing or even running around the back yard.
If you find yourself trying day-after-day to get your child to stop this habit with little or no results, don’t get upset with your child or discipline him. An effective method is by using positive reinforcement, which means, praise him generously when he acts correctly. Maybe you can buy your child some stickers and give him one every time he stops sucking on his thumb.
Some of my friends have successful weaned their children from thumb sucking by applying a small amount of lemon juice on their thumbs. This allows parents to switch the thumb for a soother.