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Thumb-sucking in children -- should you worry?

The woes of a mother and her thumb-sucking baby..

Written by Agencies |Updated : September 26, 2014 10:58 AM IST

babyEven before my three-year-old was born, I knew he would be a thumb-sucker. Those ultrasound images showed a thumb-sucking baby with knitted brows. According to my doctor, ultrasound annoys babies, hence that angry expression!

Till date my preschooler turns to his thumb whenever faced with anxiety or stress when he is tired, scared, bored, hungry or sick. But mostly it is a bedtime activity. However, thanks to the regular fridge raids, now the association of thumb-sucking with hunger has stopped. My son's pediatrician Dr S Sitaraman, a child neurologist, tells me: "Children usually give up thumb-sucking when they find other ways to calm themselves." In fact, it suggests that the child is capable of comforting himself. (Read: Thumb sucking and other oral habits in children could warrant braces!)

Both my niece aged 10 and nephew aged six, have their comfort toys. And these toys have flown from one continent to another. They have accompanied the duo everywhere -- from school, malls, washrooms, to their beds. And all the restoration attempts have resulted in such disfiguration and ugly patches that it's difficult to accept that they are toys and not some nuclear waste. Every time I think of all the stress their mother has to endure to comfort them, I feel blessed to have a thumb-sucking baby.

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Apart from the fact that this natural sucking reflex is responsible for breast-feeding and provides comfort, I was rather impressed to learn that it is a basic form of Yoga. Believe it or not! In one of the numerous 'Know Your Child' sessions I have so far attended, I gathered that the veins from our spine go all the way up to our thumb -- therefore thumb sucking helps strengthen the newborn's spine. In many cultures thumb-sucking is considered to be a very auspicious sign. In Philippines they consider a thumb-sucking child to be very brainy and compassionate.

However, for all the compassion and intellect thumb-sucking may suggest, it is the fear of damaging the alignment of the child's teeth that causes every mother to worry. I can already see the deformation happening to my child's teethline. So, like most mothers, I started looking for ways to help my child get rid of this habit. I resorted to the cruel method of putting bitters on his thumb. My mother suggested I apply neem oil, while my mother-in-law thought of getting a plaster tape wrapped around his thumb. But Dr Sitaraman dissuaded me from doing all that. According to him, children usually stop sucking their thumb before their permanent teeth begin to appear which is around six years of age. And by the time they turn six, more than 90 per cent of kids give up this habit. It is only if your child is one of the 10 per cent who don't, that you should begin to worry. (Read: Are these 10 habits destroying your teeth and gums?)

As far as my little monster is concerned, it's not amusing that he turned out to be a thumb-sucking baby, considering 'thumbsucker' also happens to be a journalistic slang used to describe a lengthy write-up such as this. Like mother, like son!

Source: DNA

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