At what age should your child stop sucking their thumb?

Children usually suck their thumb to soothe themselves, generally taking it up when they are in their first year of life and giving it up around 4 or 5 years old. However, some children may continue to suck their thumb in stressful situations or to help them fall asleep at night. If you think your child is doing damage to their teeth by sucking their thumb, there are some things you can do to encourage them to stop.

Identify the ‘when’

At what times and/or places does your child suck their thumb? Once you have identified these unique situations and/or places, you can start trying to find ways to avoid the reactions that lead to your child sucking their thumb.

Does your toddler have any of these other habits?

Offer a substitute

Once you know the wen and the where your child sucks their thumb, have a substitute at the ready. Things like a book to flip through or even something to eat like a piece of frozen fruit or yoghurt will help give them the relief they feel from the sucking motion.

Set limits

Allow your child to continue to suck their thumb, but only when going to bed or at nap time, for example. This will allow them to use it as their soothing relief, but also get them out of the habit of sucking it all the time.

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Make them aware

When your child starts to suck their thumb, gently ask them ‘Do you know you’re sucking your thumb right now?’ By pulling their awareness to the act, that they more than likely do subconsciously, you’re making them aware of just how often they do it.

Allow it

When your child is upset or traumatised, don’t stop them from sucking their thumb. Stopping them from receiving the relief they crave when they’re upset, will only make it harder to stop in the long run. So be aware of when is the right time to substitute the thumb for something else or to bring their awareness to it.


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