Stop Sucking Habit

How to stop sucking habits

Our Stop Sucking Habit Programmes are professionally designed with little children in mind! Our programmes not only address thumb sucking, but also finger, dummy, lip, cheek and tongue sucking in children.

Our programmes are fun and engaging for children and supportive for parents!

Boys and girls love our programmes and parents love the fact there is a kind and effective solution to a sensitive issue with complete professional support.

What do our stop sucking habit programmes include?

Our programmes include the provision of professional support (in-clinic or via ZOOM) to support you and your child as your child learns to let go of their oral habit in a kind and supportive way. Included in each programme is a 40-page story/activity book, finger puppets, progress charts, stickers, information sheets, and a guided relaxation audio for your child to listen to when going to sleep to encourage the correct oral posture at rest and promote sound sleeping at night. Each programme includes a “Certificate of Achievement” that can be framed in honour of your child’s success at the end of the programme! 

The programmes are written and delivered in Australian-English and so we use terms like “dummy” rather than “pacifier” or “binkie”, which are American-English terms commonly used in products from the USA.

These programmes are available after an initial consultation to screen for any issues that might need to be resolved before commencing the programme e.g. mouth breathing, tongue-tie, high palatal arch, narrow upper jaw, or retracted lower jaw. If any of these issues are present or could be relevant, you may be referred to an Orthodontist or Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist for an oral and/or upper airway examination.

Why do children develop sucking habits like thumb sucking in the first place?

“Non-nutritive sucking habits” is a term that is used to describe sucking habits that do not supply nutrients for a child’s growing body.  It includes habits like thumb sucking, finger sucking, dummy sucking, lip sucking, cheek sucking and tongue sucking. 

If non-nutritive sucking habits do not offer any nutritional benefits, why do children develop these habits in the first place? 

The habit of sucking is a natural instinct that children develop as infants, usually when they begin breast feeding.  This natural instinct can carry over to other sucking habits (e.g. thumb sucking, finger sucking, dummy sucking, tongue sucking), which can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, providing children with psychological-emotional comfort whenever they indulge their habit.  So, it is usually the calming, relaxing effects associated with the sucking habits that make non-nutritive oral habits so appealing to children!

What is a good age to stop thumb sucking, etc.?

Some children may grow out of their sucking habit by the time they are 4-5 years of age however others may continue their sucking habit beyond this age, which is when parents tend to bring their children to see an Orofacial Myologist to help them discontinue the habit naturally with one of our little programmes! 

By the time children are 5 years of age their intellectual and emotional skills are usually adequately developed to support the cessation of their sucking habit.  Some children can start our programmes a little earlier and other children may be ready when they are a bit older.  Whatever the starting age, working cooperatively with children is an essential part of the programmes we offer, and that’s why our programmes are so successful – our programmes not only engage children to take the lead in discontinuing their habit, but the programmes are kind, caring, educational, fun and empowering for children.  Through these programmes children can learn at a very young age that they can let go of habits successfully.  This is a wonderful boost to their confidence and self-esteem and belief in themselves.

For children who are under the age of 5, who may not be ready to begin our programme, we can recommend other options too! 

Why is it important to stop thumb sucking?

Non-nutritive sucking habits (e.g. thumb sucking, finger sucking, dummy sucking, lip sucking, cheek sucking and tongue sucking), may seem harmless but can have a profound effect on a child’s orofacial development.  Most sucking habits (and mouth breathing) change the natural resting position of the tongue and how the tongue is used.  This can have one or more of the following effects:

  • V-shaped upper jaw and lower jaw;
  • High, narrow palatal arch (roof of mouth);
  • Compromised nasal cavity and sinus drainage;
  • Difficulty nasal breathing;
  • Crowded, crooked, misaligned teeth;
  • Appearance of bucked teeth;
  • Open bite (gap between upper teeth and lower teeth);
  • Poor lip seal (lips do not seal properly);
  • Retracted lower jaw (jaw sits back from natural resting position);
  • TMJ problems (involving the temporomandibular joint);
  • Impinged Eustachian tubes, creating hearing problems;
  • Predisposition to snoring and sleep apnoea;
  • Compromised ability to control the movement of the tongue;
  • Messy and difficult eating habits;
  • Compromised speech and articulation;
  • Pronounced vertical facial growth (facial elongation).

The extent to which oral habits affect a child’s orofacial development depends on the frequency, intensity and duration of the habit.  Research shows that the adverse effects of sucking habits may spontaneously reverse (without further treatment) if sucking habits cease by the time a child is 6 years of age.  If sucking habits continue beyond 6 years of age, reversing the effects of the habit may take longer and may require additional orofacial myology exercises to retrain the muscles of the oral cavity and face, along with other treatment interventions. 

Key message for parents of children with sucking habits

If a child has a sucking habit, the golden age to successfully address the habit is around 5 to 6 years of age when most children are developmentally ready to cease the habit with professional guidance and support.  This is also the perfect age to resolve adverse orofacial effects with the least effort and greatest ease.  Our Stop Sucking Habit Programmes are a perfect fit for children who are 5 years and older!