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How Can I Stop My Child From Sucking Her Thumb?

My youngest daughter sucks her thumb constantly. Should I be worried? How can I get her to stop?
- Craig

Childhood habits like thumb sucking are not usually something to worry about. In fact, many young kids suck their thumbs, probably as a way to cope with stress or anxiety. Thumb sucking can be soothing and comforting, and can make a child feel safe.

Most childhood habits go away on their own — especially if a parent ignores them. But if kids continue to suck their thumbs into the school-age years, it may cause shifts in their teeth and affect the way the mouth grows.

If your daughter doesn't seem to be outgrowing her thumb sucking, try some positive reinforcement. Reward her with an extra bedtime story or other favorite treat when she doesn't suck her thumb. Be generous with the praise, too. It can also help eliminate anything causing her anxiety or stress. And remember, most habits in young kids are just passing phases.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013