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Health tips for children



Baby Thumb Sucking


Where the babies have not had enough sucking at the breast or bottle to satisfy their sucking needs, they take to thumb sucking. This sucking helps babies relieve physical and emotional tension. When a toddler gets too excited and needs to calm down, he starts thumb sucking. Babies who are fed every three hours do not suck their thumbs as much as babies fed every four hours. When babies learn new skills such as sitting up, crawling or walking, thumb sucking would increase during the frustrating learning period and decrease when the new skills are actually learnt. The thumb sucking could increase to as much as four hours a day.

The sucking need is the strongest in the first three months. From then on it tapers off. When sucking continues after six months, it is for comforting and not an expression of sucking needs. Thumb sucking is generally given up by 6 years of age. But in one case known to the writer, thumb sucking continued till his death at age 70 years. As a practicing lawyer he was sucking his thumb when he was not arguing.

One can worry about the effect of thumb sucking on the baby's jaws and teeth. But it seems nothing much can be done to prevent it. It may be a mistake to try to deprive a child of thumb sucking in infancy. Parents should not use elbow splints nor apply bad tasting liquids on the thumb. Thumb sucking does not harm any other parts of the baby.


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