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Thumb Sucking                                                

Virtually, all babies suck on their fingers at some time during the first year of life. Many even begin the habit in the uterus. The mouth of the infant is an important organ not just for eating, but also for exploring. Everything that he picks up, he tends to put it in his mouth. Before he can reach an object, he discovers his hands. Initially, he may put his fingers in his mouth and later realize that the thumb is the most efficient and satisfying thing to suck on.

Parents should remember that thumb sucking comes naturally to a baby whether it is  due to hunger seeking  comfort or because  the baby is exploring his body. Studies have shown that this behaviour peaks on  an average between 18 and 21 months, though by  then some could have  already abandoned the habit.  Nearly 80% of children give it up by five years of age and 95% give it up by six years.

Reasons for Thumb Sucking

Hunger : When a baby has not had itís fill of sucking at the breast or bottle,  he instinctively turns towards the thumb.
Feeling Secure :  Some babyís  suck their  thumb to  seek comfort  and  feel secure. Some babies have been observed to suck their thumb even in the uterus.
Instinct of Exploring: Small infants are like young scientist, they like exploring their mouth.

Tackling Thumb Sucking

Do not make the baby too conscious about sucking his thumb.
Try to distract him with a toy when he begins to suck his thumb.
Avoid nagging your baby. Do not condemn your baby for thumb sucking.
Occasionally praise the baby for not sucking his thumb.
Avoid any kind of pressure, it will lead to resistance and lack of co-operation.
Make your baby wear long sleeved nightwear,  which will make it difficult for him to get his hands out from the sleeve.

Negative effects of Thumb Sucking

Many children give it up naturally by the age of four. If sucking continues, it could damage the alignment of permanent teeth. The permanent teeth may develop crooked  and one  can  also have a malformed palate.  This usually results from pressure applied by the thumb on the roof of the mouth.

Speech  defects  could occur due  to mal-aligned teeth.  Thumb Sucking usually leads to an overbite. An overbite is when the upper row of teeth comes out over the lower layer of teeth. A baby can develop teeth, which show out prominently.

Thumb sucking may also lead to various infectious diseases, if the babyís hand/ thumb is contaminated. Side leakage of urine and fecal matter from a cloth nappy contaminates the surroundings including floor, toys, etc. And due to the hand-to-mouth behaviour of the baby, there is a risk of infectious agents getting transferred to the baby. Disposable diapers absorb urine and provide better containment of fecal matter. They help prevent side leakage and therefore help keep the surroundings clean and hygienic.





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