Should I Worry About My Babies Habits?
Thumb Sucking Concerns
Babies are naturally born with a reflex to suck any object that is placed in their mouth. This reflex helps during the first few days and weeks of learning to feed and disappears at around four months of age.
Usually there are no long-term side-effects from thumb or finger sucking and most children naturally stop the habit somewhere between two and four years of age.
However, if thumb or finger sucking continues and the adult teeth start to erupt, it can change the normal growth of the jaws and may cause misalignment of the front adult teeth, often resulting in the need for the child to have orthodontic treatment.
The best advice for parents is not to worry too much if your baby is a thumb sucker. If they are still in the habit at around the age of two you can gently encourage them to stop and then hopefully by the age of four they will have stopped completely.
You can help stop your child from thumb sucking by:
- offering rewards and encouragement
- marking their progress on a calendar
- wearing thumb sucking guards while they sleep
- simply by reminding them not to
Using a Dummy
For many children sucking a thumb, finger or dummy, can cause changes and misalignment to their teeth and jaws.
Growth problems will naturally correct themselves if the child stops when they are younger, before the adult teeth erupt.
If children are still sucking their dummy, thumb or finger when the adult teeth come through there is a much higher risk of permanent damage and requiring orthodontic treatment for correction.
Never be tempted to sooth your baby by putting anything sweet on a dummy such as honey or jam. This continued source of sugar can cause severe tooth decay very quickly. Baby teeth are made of a softer material that adult teeth and therefor will decay faster.
Your child will become more attached to their dummy the longer they use it and therefor it will be ever more difficult for them to give it up. Try giving it to them only at bed or nap time to limit its use.
Expecting your child to stop using a dummy suddenly is not recommended as this can lead to them progressing to thumb or finger sucking. So, don’t simply throw the dummy in the bin or out the car window., throwing away a thumb could prove much harder!
Babies and children will often suck on their dummy or their thumb or finger, to comfort themselves so changes to this habit need to be gentle and natural.
Studies of children show they have a greater problem in breaking their thumb or finger sucking habit than children who suck a dummy.
The biggest advantage of a dummy over finger sucking is that when the child goes to sleep a dummy can then be gently taken away. This helps the child become used to sleeping without.
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