23 answers

When Should I Stop Baby from Sucking Fingers

My son is almost 5 months and for the past month and a half he has found comfort in sucking his two fingers (the middle and ring finger, which is really cute b/c he makes the longhorn sign when he does). I don't really see anything wrong with this and neither does my husband but everytime we see my mother in law she says that if we don't take his fingers out of his mouth now it's gonna be really hard to make him stop later and he'll be one of those older kids still sucking his fingers. My husband says she is just traumatized b/c she has a 19yr old grandchild who still sucks his thumb. We just let her know that he is teething and it feels good on his gums and it has actually been pretty helpful b/c when he is tired he just sucks on his fingers and has actually put himself to sleep plenty of times now. But since I have to hear it everytime I'm starting to wonder if I should, or at least at what age should I, start taking them out of his mouth. My instinct still tells me that there's nothing wrong with it now but should I start taking his fingers out when he gets teeth? Please if anyone has suggestions they will be greatly appreciated.

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Tell her there are many reasons why this is good/appropriate behavior for him including teething, and self consolation and you will not be stopping him but if it bothers her so much you can call her in a year or two when he is finished and get together for lunch! :o)

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Please do not stop him from sucking his fingers. Some kids suck their fingers for years, but right now is not the time to stop him. He's only 5 months.

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Not to be rude, but m-in-law needs to myob! REALLY!? he is 5months old! He was probably sucking his fingers in the womb. That's like saying he needs to walk NOW, or he'll never walk. No one knows if he is going to be a sucker later, everyone is different & if he can comfort himself, more power to him.

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I have read that sucking fingers does not cause any damage until 4-5 years of age. My daughter sucks her thumb when she is sleepy and it helps her to calm down if she is upset. If she hasn't stopped on her own in a few years, then I will definitely help her stop doing it because I don't want her to have social issues about it, or any dental problems. By 4 or 5 years old, I think she should be mature enough to have developed other skills to calm down--with my guidance of course. I couldn't stop her from sucking her thumb. She started when she was 4 months and would spit out the pacifier and suck her thumb. Hope this helps. Follow your heart!

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Do not listen to your mother in law and politely ask her to stop making comments about your child. yes, she will be mad at you for a little but that will blow over. If you don't do it now then she will assume that she can comment on anything at any time the entire time you are raising that precious child. The 19 yr. old is a very very very unusual case and one which should have been addressed long ago by that parent and by the pediatric dentist. They have implants that are not painful and are placed in the mouth of children to help them to stop the habit if it goes too far for too long. Your baby has found a way of comforting himself and that is a developmental millestone. When he is older 4-5 if he doesn't stop on his own you can help him break the habit or you can visit with a pediatric dentist that will be able to help. I speak the words of wisdom as I was a thumb sucker and have one who is as well. I have 4 kids and each has given up their comfort crutch on their own just as our pediatrician said he/she would. My Mother in law was appalled that I allowed my oldest to use a paci until he was 4 but he gave it up on his own at 4 and 1/2 and I didn't have to traumatize him as she did her son (my husband) when she threw his paci out the window on his 2nd birthday. Remember they have had their turn raising their kids now it is yours- be strong and love that precious one that God gave to you!!

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Babies and young children suck for comfort. It is totally normal and totally natural. It is also a good sign that your son can soothe himself.

My daughter is 2 and a half and still sucks on her finger for comfort. We have no problem with this at all. She is not in any danger of doing any damage right now and it would cause psychological damage to try to force her to quit. She will likely quit when she starts grade school, but if not, we will address it then with her dentist and pediatrician and NOT with any other relatives.

Your instincts are right on and you should do what you and your husband think is best. Your child is learning to self soothe which will help build his confidence. You are also lucky because he might drop a pacifier, but he can always find his fingers in the middle of the night. It is developmentally appropriate for babies and young children to suck and this should be allowed.

It is good that you and your husband are on the same page. Just politely tell your mother in law thank you for her concern, but that the two of you have agreed that the sucking behavior is normal and acceptable. Good luck.

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Tell her there are many reasons why this is good/appropriate behavior for him including teething, and self consolation and you will not be stopping him but if it bothers her so much you can call her in a year or two when he is finished and get together for lunch! :o)

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I feel 5 months is a little early to be trying to stop this comfort action. My daughter is a two finger sucker as well and she is now 15 months old and does this now only when she is getting sleepy or for the occasional comfort. Don't stress about it.

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Go with your instincts. There is nothing wrong with it. If you make it an issue, there is a greater chance it will become one. The palate does not harden until the permanent teeth start coming in, so even if he sucks his fingers every day until he is 6 the palate won't be permanently affected. My brother sucked his fingers almost up until 2nd grade. He has gorgeous, perfect teeth, and never had to have braces. My mom's approach was to simply let it be - for my brother, that approach worked fine. He gave it up on his own when he saw his peers didn't do it.

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Hi, C.,
There's nothing wrong with a baby sucking his fingers. Our pediatrician said he preferred finger/hand sucking instead of pacifiers since pacifiers fall on the ground and get dirty. Since your son sucks his fingers it's a good way to soothe himself. My baby used to suck on fingers and hands, but stopped without my doing anything once my baby became more mobile (around 8 months old). I hope this helps!
P.S. That's cool about the longhorn sign when your son sucks his fingers! :)

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I haven't read the other responses yet but hopefully they are telling you to go with your gut! He's only 5 months old and you should consider yourself lucky that he's already found a way to soothe himself. My son sucked his fingers for a couple of years and eventually stopped on his own. In-laws...what can you do? Oh, and by the way, I sucked my fingers for a few years and my teeth are just fine. And straight. And I never had to have braces. Let the little dude do it for a while you can address this when he's older and able to find other ways calm himself.

Good luck!

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Please do not stop him from sucking his fingers. Some kids suck their fingers for years, but right now is not the time to stop him. He's only 5 months.

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Do we have the same mother in law? My daughter (four months) is a major finger and thumb sucker. A pacifier will cause the same damage as the fingers will. My son uses a blanket to chew on. They all find their own self-soothing techniques (hooray for that). I wouldn't worry about it until the dentist or pedi says to worry about it. When me and my mom-in-law are not on the same track, I always defer to my pedi and tell her the doc's recommendation. I have lots of family and get LOTS of advice all the time. If need be, I just kind of go into some big long scientific diatribe. That usually shuts them up and they resume sneaking my kids cookies and candy behind my back so we'll really have something for the dentist to get on us about. It's all part of having a wonderful Grandma for your kids.

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Hi C.:
I am an orthodontist and a mother of two (5y.o and 3y.o.). So I am going to give you the whole perspective from the professional stand point and as a Mom. I got a long story…
To start I will tell you not to worry about it, and tell that to you mother in law as well. Do not make a big deal out of it.
When a kid comes to my office because the parents need help making the child stop the habit it is usually around 4 years old and older. At that point many things can be done to help (not necessary braces or any appliance), but that will be another subject and you don’t need that info right now.
My 3 year-old used to suck his thumb, he did it constantly, he even took it in an out while eating switching between the thumb and the spoon or fork to eat his food, you can imagine how annoying it was for me (especially with my occupation).
Well my Mom is an orthodontist too and I sucked my thumb until I was 6y.o., and she used to tell me to leave my son alone and that I can make him quit later. I disagreed with her, because what annoyed me the most was when he started to be a toddler I felt it was an additional source of germs and it will increase his chances of getting sick all the time. My husband also used to tell to not worry about it, that I could fix his teeth later.
Then my sister in law (which is a dentist as well) has 2 boys and both of them sucked their thumb, actually the 10y.o. still does, and the 4y.o. doesn’t anymore. She always advised me to me make him quit early so I wouldn’t go through the nightmares that she went through with her oldest. She made her little one stop before he turned 2y.o. What she did was to put on his thumb the nasty flavored nail polish to quit biting the nails, and he didn’t know what was wrong with his thumb, what was going on, he cried for a week and even threw up once, but he quitted for good since then.
So when it was my turn (3 months before turning 2), I was a complete coward and I felt I didn’t have the heart to do it, but my sister in law gave the emotional support and I tried her experiment. I planned to do it on a weekend, because I wanted to be with him day & night at list during the first 3 nights. So I started putting the nail polish Friday afternoon (when he was taking his nap) and he came to me and said that his thumb was sick, so I put some “medicine” on the thumb (the nail polish) to “make the thumb get better” (I felt like the worst Mom ever….) and he even thank me for it (to break my heart more…), that night he cried to sleep, it took him longer to fall sleep, and he cried the following two nights, and kept asking me to more medicine, he even blew air on his thumb to dry “the medicine”. So to make a long story short, he never suck his thumb ever again, he only cried about it during the weekend, and I kept putting the nail polish for the following 2 weeks, to make sure he wouldn’t go back.
So in conclusion the best time to do it is before they turn 2. Because they fully trust you, and they haven’t starter with the terrible 2’s phase, and they are easier to handle. I wouldn’t recommend doing it earlier than 2 y.o. because if they suck their fingers or thumb is because they have a need of suction, and you have to let them satisfy that need. By the age of 2 that need is reduced but they still do it because it is already a habit.
By now other 3 people (friends and patients) have try this approach and worked perfectly for them as well, but remember it has to be 2 or 3 months BEFORE they turn 2.
I also do not recommend making a child quit this habit if there is any unstable situation at home, like parents separating, moving away from relatives or any change that could affect a child emotionally. In those case even if they are older than 4 I tell the parents to wait until everything gets better.
I would like to make also a comment on some of the answers you got:
The palate can deform at any age, even before adult teeth erupt. What makes the difference it is how, how much and with how much force the kid sucks, and also the genetic predisposition to have a malocclusion. Some kids suck their thumb for 10 years and nothing happens to their mouth, some just do it for a year and they get buck teeth. So there are many factors. But if they stop before two you have greater chance of any deformation caused by this habit.
Good luck, I hope my loooong story could help you.

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Give him a pacifier NOW so that it can be taken away at the appropriate time before this habit gets stuck. My daughter got hung up on sucking her first two fingers, and she didn't quit till about age 8. Dentists will tell you that this can malform the palate and complicate life a lot. You can take a pacifier away at age 18 months to 2 with no harm done, but you can't take the fingers away. (She had a pacifier, but we took it away too early, and she subbed with the fingers.)

Hi C.,
Mother in laws can really be a pain sometimes- and at others have the very best advice
finger sucking gives him comfort but you really should try to divert that as soon as possible. It will ultimately affect his mouth and tooth structure and he may have really pruteding teeth ............I am sure you have tried the paci- if not- I would try that and see if he likes it ..........if not- just be sure you take his fingers out of his mouth as soon as he is asleep .............kids do the darnn't things for comfort-
good luck and blessings

Honestly, it really would be easier to try to get him to stop now rather than later. We have a 4 yr old that we are constantly after to get his finger out of his mouth. Besides being horrible for his teeth, which we've already been told his pallat has shifted and will most likely need a retainer at the least....it is just asking for him to get sick. At this point, he doesn't make a conscious thought to put his finger in, it's instinct, especially when he's tired. And as much as we tell him to take it out during the day, he sucks his finger almost all night. It helped him sleep and soothed him....is exactly what I told myself. I do have regrets on that...only you know what to do with your child and each child is different.

Good luck!!

The first thing you have to do is develop a thick skin regarding your mother-in-law. If she's starting now, she will most likely try to "correct" everything you do, because, after all, she is older and has more experience with child rearing than you do. Be nice. Don't argue with her. I seems like you've handled this problem pretty well. When the next one comes up, just listen, don't make negative comments, then do as you please. As for the finger sucking, he's only 5 months old, give him a little time. If you're lucky, he'll outgrow it soom, but if he doesn't, still don't worry about it. He will eventually stop and it's nobody's business but his.

Sorry, but she is right. Starting to break the habit now will be alot easier. At this time I would try to defer him to using the teething rings verses the fingers. May seem harsh, but in the long run it would be helpful, both for you and him. An 18 yr. old boy still sucking his fingers can be traumatizing, because then he wouldn't know how to stop.

My son sucked two fingers and stopped without any problem... Once he got mobile and his hands were so busy doing other things.. he stopped.....without our doing anything.

J.

I am a mother of 3 kids, ages 3 1/2 years, 18 months, and 4 months. I have not let any of my children suck on their fingers because I have seen situations with other children. I used to babysit a little girl, age 5, who sucked on her fingers/thumb and the parents could not get her to break the habit. At that age the dentist told the parents that she would have to get braces for that child when she got older. Another instance was my own nephew, he sucked on his fingers until he was about 5 or 6. It is a very hard habit to break. If your son is sucking on his fingers to put himself to sleep then he is, more than likely, making a habit for himself. If he will take a paicifier I would suggest letting him use one to put himself to sleep. At least when you are ready to get rid of the pacifier you can just throw them away. However you can't get rid of your sons fingers when you are ready for him to stop sucking on them. I think your mother in law has a very valid concern. Good luck.

My daughter has also been sucking her fingers too (only the middle and ring finger also lol) shes been doing it since she was a little over a year old and now shes about to be 3 years old. I've been trying to get her to stop but not as often as i should. I dont see anything wrong with it, although if they keep it up when they're older that could be a real problem. I'm sorry i dont have any advice but i wanted to see what responses you'd get since my daughter does the same thing. good luck!

C.,

Don't you just love mothers-in-law? They always have the right answers:)Your baby is fine and it is normal for them to explore with their mouths. If he is teething, you need a good teether. I can sell you the best one on the market. Please e-mail me privately from cindystoybox.com and I can help you. Enjoy your little guy!

Peace,
C.

The truth is, babies who suck fingers tend to grow into kids who suck fingers. Kids who know how to sooth themselves sleep better, are usually more secure, and are more able to recover quickly from scary situations. However, as a parent, you need to be sure you will feel ok about having a child who sucks his fingers and you will be comfortable disregarding what people will say to you, because people WILL feel inclined to put their two cents in about how kids are ruining their teeth, are too dependent, etc. If you think you will be uncomfortable hearing this about a two or four year old, you should stop the sucking now because most kids who suck their fingers go on to do it for years. It's rare to have the 18 year old thumb sucker, most kids drop the habit before 8 or 9. If you can be a parent who is comfortable that the benefits of having a finger sucker outweigh the consequences, you should allow him to suck, or not suck on his time schedule. But if you think it will make you uncomfortable having to defend him and you will just have to battle him to stop when he's 2, it will be MUCH easier to break it now, a habit that's been going on for a month instead of years. Good luck.

I have a 21 month old boy and he sucks his fingers as well and I have spent many days and nights worrying about it and I actually got some of the best advice from this site. You will have no luck trying to get him to stop most likely because it is his way of self soothing right now and to try to take his fingers out will do more damage than good because all he knows is that it makes him feel good and relaxed when sleepy or upset. He is still a baby and babies need to suck. The harder you try to get him to stop, the more he will want to suck because he is stressed that you are taking away his one comfort that gets him through the day. My dentist said that if my son is still sucking by 3 or so then we need to start to work on some positive reinforcement to encourage him to stop because it could start to damage his bite and speech. Right now even at almost 2 he still doesn't understand the reasoning behind him stopping. Until that point, I am going to let him keep on sucking. Your son might just stop on his own, some do around 1 year. If not, don't worry about it. Hang in there and good luck!

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