Thumb sucking is a very natural way of self-soothing. It is observed in the fetus as early as 18 weeks gestation and continues after birth. About 80% of all infants suck their fingers or thumbs, and girls are more likely to engage in thumb sucking than boys.
Thumb sucking generally does not require intervention unless it persists beyond 4 years of age or is associated with dental problems, finger deformities, skin problems, or social or psychological problems. Some treatment strategies include: identifying and eliminating stress; empowering the child – the child’s active involvement is essential - gentle reminders; praise and reward systems; application of a bitter tasting substance; and using gloves, splints, or socks over the hands.
Obligatory thumb sucking is another intervention which involves the requirement of 10 to 15 minutes of thumb or finger sucking every day. The idea behind it is to change a pleasurable experience to an obligation. Thumb sucking will then likely lose its appeal.
For additional healthy kids tips, log onto baymed.org, scroll over "Health Checks & You" and join our "E-List." For more information about childhood diseases or development, contact Inez Balinska, MD or Darek Balinski, MD, McLaren Bay Region Pediatrics, Medical Mall, 1456 W. Center Road, Essexville. (989) 895-4840.