Adults & Babies thumb sucking: How to Stop and Causes

Adults & Babies thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural reflexive behavior observed in infants, helping them self-soothe and develop their ability to accept nourishment.

It is a common occurrence among newborns, with many babies demonstrating thumb, finger, or toe sucking habits shortly after birth. While most children naturally outgrow thumb sucking by the time they reach school age, some require gentle intervention from parents.

Interestingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that a portion of individuals continue thumb sucking into their teenage and adult years, potentially as a lifelong habit. While adult thumb sucking is less common, it may serve as a symptom or manifestation of various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or developmental disorders.

While thumb sucking can provide comfort and alleviate anxiety, it is important to understand its potential impact on dental health.

Causes of Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural way for babies and children to find comfort and feel secure. It’s a reflex they develop to soothe themselves. Some adults also suck their thumbs, often as a response to stress or anxiety.

Sometimes, thumb sucking in adults can be linked to past traumas, like bullying, abuse, or accidents. When faced with difficult situations, people may revert to behaviors from their younger years as a way to cope. This could include cuddling stuffed animals, using baby talk, or sucking their thumb.

If thumb sucking is related to trauma, there may be other signs like trouble sleeping, feeling on edge, or intense emotions of guilt, shame, anger, or panic. These experiences can be distressing and may require professional help to address the underlying issues.

It’s important to understand that thumb sucking as a response to trauma needs support and understanding. If you or someone you know is dealing with trauma and engaging in thumb sucking as a way to cope, seeking help from a mental health professional can provide guidance and assistance in developing healthier coping strategies.

Side Effects Of Thumb Sucking

Adults & Babies thumb sucking

Let’s explore some of the potential side effects of thumb sucking:

  1. Dental Problems: Prolonged thumb sucking can cause dental issues, including:
    • Malocclusion: Thumb sucking can disrupt the proper alignment of teeth, leading to malocclusion or “bad bite.” It can cause the upper front teeth to protrude, the lower teeth to tilt inward, or the formation of an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed).
    • Misalignment of the Jaw: Frequent thumb sucking can also affect the growth and development of the jaw, leading to an improper bite relationship between the upper and lower jaws.
  2. Speech Impediments: Thumb sucking can potentially impact speech development, particularly if it continues beyond the age when children are actively learning to speak. The habit can interfere with proper tongue placement and coordination, leading to difficulties with articulation and pronunciation.
  3. Skin Problems: Sustained thumb sucking can cause skin problems around the thumb area, such as chapping, redness, or calluses. The constant moisture and friction can irritate the skin, making it more susceptible to infection or dermatitis.
  4. Social and Emotional Concerns: In some cases, prolonged thumb sucking can lead to social and emotional challenges, including:
    • Teasing and Peer Pressure: As children get older, thumb sucking can become a target for teasing or ridicule from peers, which may negatively impact self-esteem and social interactions.
    • Emotional Dependency: Thumb sucking can serve as a coping mechanism or source of comfort for some children. Over time, it may impede the development of independent self-soothing skills, leading to emotional dependency on the habit.
  5. Oral Hygiene Issues: Thumb sucking involves placing the thumb in the mouth, which can introduce additional bacteria and germs. If proper oral hygiene practices are not followed, it can increase the risk of tooth decay, gum problems, and oral infections.

It’s important to note that not all children who suck their thumbs will experience these side effects, as the severity and duration of the habit can vary.

However, if thumb sucking persists beyond the age when the permanent teeth start erupting (around 6 years old) or if any of the side effects mentioned above are observed, it is recommended to consult with a pediatric dentist or healthcare professional.

They can provide guidance, strategies, and support to help break the thumb sucking habit and address any associated concerns.

How To Stop Baby From Sucking Thumb

If you’re looking to help your baby stop sucking their thumb, here are some useful tips:

  1. Offer alternative comfort: Provide your baby with other sources of comfort like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal to help soothe them when they feel the urge to suck their thumb.
  2. Keep hands occupied: Encourage your baby to engage in activities that keep their hands busy, such as playing with toys or holding a teething ring, to divert their attention from thumb sucking.
  3. Positive reinforcement: Praise your baby when they refrain from thumb sucking and consider offering small rewards like stickers or a small toy to motivate them.
  4. Introduce a pacifier: Offer a pacifier as a substitute for thumb sucking when your baby needs comforting.
  5. Be patient and consistent: Breaking the thumb sucking habit takes time and patience. Stay consistent with your approach and provide positive reinforcement when your baby successfully avoids thumb sucking.

Remember, thumb sucking is a normal behavior in infants and young children, and it usually resolves naturally.

How To Stop Sucking Your Thumb As An Adult

Stopping thumb sucking as an adult can be a challenge, but with effort and persistence, it is possible. Here are some tips to help you on your journey:

  1. Identify triggers: Take note of the situations or emotions that lead you to suck your thumb. By recognizing these triggers, you can develop alternative ways to cope with stress or anxiety.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing. These practices increase self-awareness, helping you break the habit of thumb sucking.
  3. Seek support: Consider reaching out to a therapist or joining a support group. They can provide guidance, tools, and resources to help you overcome the habit effectively.
  4. Use a thumb guard: Try using a thumb guard, a device designed to cover your thumb and prevent sucking. This can serve as a physical reminder and deterrent.
  5. Keep your hands busy: Find activities that occupy your hands and distract you from thumb sucking. Knitting, coloring, or engaging in hobbies can redirect your focus and break the habit.

Remember, breaking the habit of thumb sucking takes time and patience. Celebrate each step of progress you make along the way. With perseverance and determination, you can overcome this habit and improve your overall well-being.


Thumb sucking is a common behavior among babies and young children, and most of them naturally outgrow it by the age of 4. However, there are individuals who continue to suck their thumbs into adulthood. This persistent habit can have negative effects such as blisters, calluses, and dental problems.

For adults, thumb sucking may serve as a source of comfort and reassurance, especially during times of stress or anxiety. In some cases, thumb sucking can also be a response to past trauma.

By addressing the underlying reasons behind the thumb sucking habit, individuals may be able to find ways to stop.


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