When is thumb sucking not acceptable?

Young children may develop curious habits that, as a new parent, you may be wondering about the safety or potential negative effects of. For instance, some kids may suck their thumbs during baby development. This is something they most likely did while growing inside mom's belly, and continued during infancy.

"Sucking is very natural for babies," Robert Anderson, M.D., a pediatrician in Davenport, Iowa, told WebMD. "It's very common for them to use their thumbs or fingers as part of their routine to find comfort and to soothe themselves."

Should parents worry about this habit?
Despite that the action is comforting for the infant, there are many concerned parents out there who worry that this habit may affect the growth and formation of teeth.

The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that children can safely suck on their thumbs until they are 3 or 4 years old. In addition, attempting to get a child to use a pacifier over his or her thumb will not make a difference.

There are constructive steps parents can take
However, once children lose baby teeth and their permanent pearly whites are coming in, continuing the habit can affect the growth of the mouth, alignment of the new teeth and the roof of the mouth. If parents find that their kids do not gradually start to break the habit as they approach age 4, the ADA offers some recommendations. For instance, instead of scolding them for negative behavior, mom and dad should praise them for not sucking their thumb. Secondly, sometimes the reason children do it is because they feel uncomfortable. Parents can help by rectifying or removing the infant from the situation that is causing insecurity.

WedMD also offers some input, advising parents not to use gross-tasting ointment on their child's thumb or put gloves or mittens on his or her hand. Actions such as these may cause more anxiety and frustration, only causing a child to want to suck on his or her thumb more.

Have you known any children who were prone to sucking their thumb? Did they stop on their own? Do you have any advice for new parents to get their kids to break the habit? Leave your answers in the comments section!