Thumb Sucking
Most every child needs some type of comfort item to help them fall and stay asleep.  For some children, it may be a special blanket or stuffed toy, but for others, it’s their fingers or thumb.

While thumb sucking and fingernail biting can play a normal role in child development during the early years, when a child sucks her thumb or bites her fingernails to the point of causing damage to the skin or nail, it can be problematic.

If you’re finding that your child’s thumb sucking or fingernail biting is resulting in broken or infected skin or disfigured nails, you may wish to help wean your child off the behaviour using one of these techniques.

1. Use a nail polish designed to prevent thumb sucking and nail biting

There are several products on the market that are safe and effective in helping children to stop thumb sucking and nail biting. Polish products tend to be effective because they have an unpleasant and bitter taste to them that most children will not like. Talk to your pharmacist to ensure that the product you select is suitable for your child.

2. Offer an age appropriate alternative

A plastic teething ring or a frozen washcloth may provide relief to a child who is sucking their thumb due to teething pain. A favourite book or stuffed toy may also bring comfort to a child that may feel lonely in her cot or needs a little help being soothed to sleep.

3. Use socks

Purchase some new athletic socks in a small size and wash and rinse them well. Place the socks over your child’s hands. The elastic on the sock tube should be firm enough to keep the sock in place, but not so firm as to feel uncomfortable around your child’s wrists.

4. Use a thumb or finger guard

Consider using a plastic guard to prevent your child from sucking her thumb or biting her finger. ThumbGuard and FingerGuard are two such products that are effective in helping to stop thumb sucking and finger biting.  Plastic guards prevent direct contact with the finger or thumb that is covered so that suction cannot be formed and biting cannot occur.

5. Get interactive

Look for books that address thumb sucking and finger biting, like The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit by Stan and Jan Berenstain, and read them to your child. Ask your child open ended questions about the story and look for why your child may be sucking her thumb or biting her fingers in her answers. Having a puppet show (using your hands as the puppets) to talk about why hands don’t belong inside of your mouth can also be helpful in addressing finger biting and thumb sucking with your child.

Most children suck their thumb or bite their fingers without incident.  In fact, it’s usually a habit that a child will stop on his or her own, without assistance. But for those children whose thumb sucking or finger biting results in skin or nail injury, taking some steps to prevent it can be a good idea.

Image: Getty