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Understanding and Stopping a Thumb Sucking Habit

Updated: May 16

Are you the parent of a thumb sucking child? If so, you’re not alone. Many young children develop this habit and many parents struggle to help them stop when the time comes. However, by understanding why your child has the urge to suck, using a patient and positive approach, and providing helpful alternatives, there are ways to stop this habit once and for all.

In this article we'll discuss strategies that will help your little one transition from thumb sucking in a positive way (for everyone!).

In this article:

The upsides of thumb sucking

Your baby's development

Comfort and self-soothing

Allergy reduction


When thumb sucking starts

Many children quit independently

When to encourage your child to stop thumb sucking

Negative effects of thumb sucking

Dental problems

Speech delays

Skin irritation

Social issues

How to stop thumb sucking

Tips for helping your thumb sucker quit the habit

Resources for help

Thumb sucking FAQs

Q: Can I put something on my child's thumb to discourage sucking?

Q: My child sucks their finger, not their thumb—is this normal?

The Takeaway

The upsides of thumb sucking

It's common for infants and toddlers to suck their thumbs (and sometimes other fingers). There are several important reasons for—and beneficial effects of—this habit:

Your baby's development

Sucking is a natural reflex that babies are born with. They need this reflex to eat! However, sucking their thumb is an important part of your baby's development in several ways.

Thumb or finger sucking shows your child's growing interest in exploring their surroundings and their own body. As they develop, your baby will use all of their senses to learn, including taste.

Thumb sucking also helps your baby develop fine motor skills. At first, a newborn baby does not have control over their hands and fingers. During the first few months, they will develop the ability to deliberately bring their own hand to their mouth, and will eventually be able to single out one digit.

To learn more about your child's development, check out #MilestonesMatter: Don't Underestimate Developmental Monitoring and Holistic Approach to Child Development: The PROE Framework.

Comfort and self-soothing

Thumb sucking can be an important source of comfort and self-soothing for babies and young children, especially in stressful situations such as being away from their parents or caregivers. Young children might also self soothe in this way when they are tired or bored.