You’re running late. You’re scrambling to meet a deadline. You’re on the edge of your seat during a scary movie. We’ve all been uncomfortable. What do we do to soothe ourselves? We break into the candy drawer. We bite our nails. We crack our knuckles. We all have habits that help us deal with stress.
Just like you, babies need something to soothe themselves during moments of stress. Sucking their thumbs and/or using a pacifier are 2 of the ways these little ones seek comfort.
A pacifier is a given for a newborn baby. But what happens when babies trek into toddlerhood? Parents can take the paci away, but there’s always the thumb.
While thumbsucking and pacifiers are perfectly natural, children should stop both behaviors before or around age 3.
Relax. (Don’t start biting your nails yet!) Here are some suggestions to stop pacifier use or thumbsucking:
* Limit pacifier use to naptime and before bed. If your child is a thumb-sucker, start by ignoring the behavior.
* Use a comfort item as a substitute. A soft blanket or stuffed animal can be great ways to soothe your toddler during naps or times of stress.
* Use a toy as a distraction. Place an obstacle in your little one’s hand to keep him or her from thumbsucking. You can also try a sock or a glove.
* Reward and praise your child for not using a pacifier or sucking his or her thumb. Positive reinforcement is an effective way to change your baby’s habit.
Visit your dentist or pediatrician for more advice about how you can gradually phase out the habit and keep it from returning. Once your child puts the paci and thumb down, you’ll be giving your tot 2 thumbs up!