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When to Break Your Child's Thumb Sucking Habit

Update Date: Jan 07, 2013 08:32 AM EST

Thumb sucking could be one of the most difficult habits for a child to break. While it is a very common habit, at some point parents may think it is high time to put a stop to the behavior. A report by Mayo Clinic says that in order to stop the habit in children, it is important for parents to understand what they can do to help their child.

First of all, the reason why children get this habit is because babies have natural rooting and sucking reflexes, which can make them put their thumbs or fingers into their mouths. For some children, this happens even while they are in their mother's womb.

Quite a few children may pick up this habit while they are simply bored, anxious or tired, as the act apparently soothes them, according to the report.

Even as far as the duration of the habit is concerned, it is completely subjective to different children. While many children stop the habit on their own sometime during the toddler years (between ages 2 and 4), many others who continue till their school-going age usually stop due to peer pressure.

It is important for parents to know that many times even when a child has stopped sucking his or her thumb, he/she may revert to the behavior in a situation of stress or anxiousness.

Parents wonder as to when they should intervene. The report says that thumb sucking isn't usually a concern until a child starts growing permanent teeth. Once the permanent teeth start to appear, if the thumb sucking is aggressive, it could affect the roof of the mouth (palate) or how the teeth line up.

Parents could think of interfering if their child's thumb sucking is frequent or aggressive even after age 4 or 5, if the habit is causing dental problems, or if the child is embarrassed about the habit of thumb sucking.

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