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How to Break a Bad Habit

A natural calming agent for babies, self-soothing has many benefits. However, after the age of two, the palate or roof of the mouth begins to expand laterally. When carried into the toddler years, thumb and finger sucking as well as pacifier use and other self-soothing behaviors may impact jaw growth and the position of the later erupting adult teeth. In some cases, these habits can even result in an open bite. 

What should you look for if your child has a digit habit?

1. Intensity. How much force is your child using? Is it a passive distraction when he's sleepy? Or is the habit so intense that you can hear him a distance from his crib?

2. Duration. Is the finger or thumb sucking just for a few minutes during periods of distress? Or is he sucking for long periods. For example, while watching cartoons or playing with other children.
3. Frequency. How often is he turning to the habit? Does he suck his fingers several times throughout the day and night? 

I totally felt like a rockstar when I curbed my son's pacifier use by four months but just a few weeks later he started to suck his thumb and I have to admit it was tough to wean him off the habit. Sucking his thumb helped him get to sleep and like most parents, my husband and I cherish naptime. We slowly started sneaking his thumb out of his mouth but it almost seemed to intensify the need. We made of routine of putting him to bed with his winter gloves on but that only worked for a few months. 

When my son's second birthday had passed, I became desperate to break the habit. I researched all over and talked to my pediatric dentist friends. I tried Super Nail Bite No More that I bought from a local pharmacy and I even ordered the Dr. Thumb device from Korea, which my son quickly figured out how to dismantle. My friend convinced me to try to deter him by applying fresh aloe vera. I found some at the local organic market, carefully extracted it from the plant but just before using it, I had an idea. What if Daddy's sock was the answer? To our surprise, with the sock pulled up all the way to his shoulder, it took only two days for my son to stop sucking his thumb.  

Thumb sucking is normal and common as explained by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists. If you're having trouble trying to break the habit, be persistent and discuss concerns regarding self-soothing with your child's pediatrician and dentist.