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Thumbsucking

Our son is 4 months old and constantly has his hands in his mouth. He seems to be chewing on them more than sucking them at this point but we are worried he is going to become a thumb sucker. We prefer he use a pacifier as opposed to suck his thumb; however, he only likes to use a pacifier at naptime and bedtime.  When he puts his fingers in his mouth, we take them out and give him a toy instead but within a minute he drops the toy and has his fingers back in his mouth. Is this just a phase?  Do you have any tips on how to prevent thumb sucking?

Hopefully this a phase that has ended before I could respond to your email.

Like you, I worry that infants that begin to suck their fingers will become future thumb suckers. It sounds like you are addressing this issue appropriately. In contrast, many parents are delighted that their child can “self-sooth”. Unfortunately, thumbsuckers often face years of problems.

Thumb-sucking can lead to:

1.) Dental issues - Thumbsuckers often force their top incisors forward, ending up with “buck-teeth”.
2.) Speech issues - Dental and palatal changes can lead alterations in speech often affecting an individuals speech clarity.
3.) Infections - Children who habitually place their hands in their mouth repetitively introduce germs.

As a consequence, we are a pro-pacifier family. With limited use, pacifiers can prevent thumb sucking. See the Gordon Pacifier Program.

One of our boys had a similar experience to your son’s situation. After two children who loved their pacifiers from the start, we thought we had a child who did not need a paci. At 4 months of age, he quickly became adept at sucking his thumb. Maggie and I persistently removed his thumb and gave him his pacifier. Initially, he would suck the paci for a few seconds and then spit it out. Given time and persistence we eventually got him hooked on a pacifier. He was never as “paci addicted” as his older siblings, but it successfully ended his thumb-sucking days. Today, he is on the list of Gordon kids who may not need braces.

Follow up

He still tries to suck his thumb every now and then, but it's not nearly as often as it was before. We've been a lot more proactive with the pacifier usage so I think that has definitely helped!  Plus now he is getting to the age where he wants to grab everything he sees so that leaves less time for hands in the mouth!

Written April 2011 with follow up posted May 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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