Some parents find it so adorable that their baby sucks on a finger. However, they might begin to get concerned that habitual sucking might damage the baby’s emerging teeth. If your baby sucks on finger, here are 6 reasons why.
When they go for ultrasound scan, it’s a common sight for mothers to be excited at the soon-to-be-born baby sucking away on its thumb. It might seem as though they instinctively know it’s normal and healthy for your baby to suck his tiny thumb even before birth! After some months and years, the baby’s finger sucking habit might become a reason for anxiety.
Does finger sucking cause the baby any harm?
According to American Dental Association, there are no permanent problems from finger sucking with the baby’s teeth and jaw. The risk exists only if the baby continues the habit exceeding 4 to 5 years. For teething babies, sucking the thumb does not cause tooth decay. Bacteria causes it, but not from thumb sucking.
There’s also no likelihood of milk teeth misalignment if your baby stops finger sucking before 4 or 5 years. If it does happen, even up to 6 years is temporary. It only affects the baby’s milk teeth but not secondary teeth.
By the time the baby grows permanent teeth, should have given up the finger sucking habit. Most children give up this pattern between 2 and 4 years. However, about 15 percent of children go on finger sucking past the fifth birthday. Here, they might face teasing which might cause them social difficulties at school.
Why baby sucks on a finger?
There are various reasons which can be put forward to explain why your baby might be sucking his finger. It might be because of reasons such as the following.
If your baby sucks on things including their finger, it’s one of his natural reflexes according to American Dental Association. As the baby grows, sucking sucks a variety of purposes. It might make them feel secure and happy. Sucking on fingers and other things help the baby discover the world. Babies find themselves sucking to relax and get induced into sleep.
Comfort and calm
Babies might suck their fingers because it gives them calmness and relaxation. Perhaps your baby probably began sucking his thumb while still in the womb. So, the period of infancy gives him enough time to perfect his habit.
Adjusting to challenges
Sucking on a finger might be a way for your baby to adapt to challenges. The baby might turn to his finger when tired, sick, bored, and when starting school. Sucking might also be helping the baby to fall asleep bedtime. Further, sucking a thumb might be a useful tool to lull himself back to sleep on waking up at night.
Have you ever noticed that your baby usually sucks on a thumb when tired, bored or needs comfort? It’s a common belief that sucking is a born instinct in babies. It’s an automatic habit borne out of a necessity to breastfeed.
Problem with latching
Studies show that babies who have trouble early on in latching on to the mother’s breast have higher chances of thumb sucking? However, it’s not the same scenario with babies who latched on without any problem.
How many times do you feed your baby? There’s an observation that babies who are fed every three hours have fewer chances of sucking their thumb. However, those who are fed every four hours or more are likely to suck their thumb.
Bottle feeding the baby
Do you breastfeed your baby? Well, that explains why he sucks his thumb. Bottle fed babies are more likely to suck their thumb than breastfed babies. Those who are breastfed have their fill hence no need to suck. It’s the baby to let go of the breast when he has had enough.
Bottle-fed babies tend to finish feeding quicker. This explains the need to suck as the baby grows stronger and the nipple holes get wider. Since the baby rarely decides how much to take, sometimes he might not have enough. You might find the bay sucking on an empty bottle, and when taken away, the finger becomes a substitute.
When does finger sucking become a problem to your child?
If your child is under two, then finger sucking is not so much of a problem. It helps the baby handle stress and tension. However, if your child gets older but continues with the habit, there is a reason to worry. Chronic sucking might cause your child to have crooked permanent teeth.
Babies are not supposed to suck their thumb when engaged in another activity such as watching TV, in a car, as they sleep or during school. There’s a risk of dental problems according to dentists. So, you better deal with finger sucking if it becomes persistent. It might cause problems such as:
Tips on dealing with finger sucking
Babies usually stop sucking the thumb by themselves. However, the time varies. Some do earlier than others. If your child goes on with finger sucking as he grows older, it shows emotional immaturity and lack of self-confidence. You can help your baby give up finger sucking with the following strategies.
You don’t have to worry much about your child’s finger sucking habit. All babies do it at some point in their life, and they stop at some stage. You might not even realize that your child gave up the habit long ago. Do you have a strategy which helped you stop your baby from the habit? Why not share it in the comments below.