6 questions on the go

6 questions on the go

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Your baby sucks his thumb! His happiness and his serenity are visible. Why does a baby need to suck his thumb? Does this distort the teeth? Should we prevent it? We take stock of 6 questions.

1. Does thumb sucking have specific functions?

  • It's an innate gesture. The fetus sucks his thumb from the 4th month of pregnancy, at specific times of the day: when he is tired, anxious ... or when you are angry!
  • This suction "in utero" certainly has a training role to make your baby immediately "operational" at birth. Because it is imperative that it feeds from the first days!
  • But, apart from this technical function, it is obvious that sucking gives the child a great pleasure. This phase, called the "oral stage" in development, is characterized by the sensory predominance of the mouth and the satisfaction the baby has in making it work.

2. Why do not all babies suck their thumbs?

  • All babies suck, but it's true that not everyone needs to suck their thumbs. Do the following experiment: put your finger on the edge of your baby's lip. A grin appears ... not a smile as you would like to believe, but a pure reflex.
  • Your baby will try to catch your finger and suckle it. If you put his thumb in his mouth, he will suck it the same way.
  • 80% of babies suck their thumbs at birth, others "adopt" this habit maybe two months later, often at the time of weaning.
  • It's amusing to see that right-handed babies will suck more often their left thumbs and left-handed babies their right thumbs!
  • More than half of these babies give up this habit in the first two years.

3. Does sucking his thumb distort his teeth?

This is an issue that is still widely debated and in which several factors come into play:

  • The thumb itself: if your baby simply puts his thumb in his mouth, it will have little effect on his teething. On the other hand, an "active" suction will cause deformations, because the thumb then presses on the teeth and the jaws.
  • The position of the language: it is very important because when your baby sucks his thumb, he is in a low position. The force it exerts is therefore down ... and may project the teeth forward.
  • Breathing: thumb suckers breathe more often through the mouth than through the nose, which can cause growth disorders of the upper maxilla in the width direction.
  • Swallowing: even when your thumb is not constantly in your mouth, your child tends to place his tongue at the level of the teeth each time he swallows (this is called infant swallowing), which in the long run pushes the upper teeth forwards and upwards and causes open incisors (the upper and lower incisors are no longer touching).

4. Thumb or lollipop?

The deformations generated by one or the other are exactly the same.

  • The advantage of the pacifier or pacifier: it can be more easily abandoned than the thumb. Perhaps because the lollipop is always given by the parents, while sucking his thumb is a voluntary movement of the baby. Many parents equate the pacifier with a non-damaging object for the teeth and give it to their child a little like a sedative. But nothing says that a baby who is given a lollipop would have sucked his thumb!
  • However, there is no question of the trial of the lollipop. Some children have an irrepressible need to suck and can not console themselves with a pacifier. But they must know how to part with it!
  • The advantage of the thumb. It is inevitably solicited at one time or another of the day for other activities and does not have the disadvantage, like the lollipop, to stay permanently in the mouth of the child.

5. Should we prevent a baby from sucking on his thumb?

  • Surely not ! As the months go by, the baby's sucking pleasure has become a necessity for your child. Banning it brutally exposes your toddler to find a way to substitute: biting your fingernails, wiggling your hair ...
  • But you can use a clever subterfuge. The sucking of the thumb is most often done when your child is idle, tired, even when he wants to isolate himself ... Put a toy or a pencil in his hands and he will not suck his thumb! Attention, this does not mean that your child must be systematically busy, rest periods are necessary!

6. At what age should he stop sucking his thumb?

  • If he stops sucking his thumb around 4-5 years, the maxillary deformities will almost correct themselves.
  • If it stops after the fall of the baby teeth, the deformities will be more or less irreversible and orthodontic treatment will have to be considered later. Nothing can be done without his agreement. It is up to him to decide, with the help of his parents, the opportune moment!

Karine Ancelet

Read also :

> He still sucks his thumb: do you have to worry?

> Why this need for suction?

> Thumb or nipple: advantages and disadvantages

> The pacifier also has assets